Hamas has cracked down on merchants in the Gaza Strip, issuing new regulations
that ban importing goods from Israel without prior permission from the Islamic
group.RELATED:Opinion: The rise and fall of the Gaza blockade'Tunnels being used to smuggle goods out of Gaza'
Hamas decided on the new policy this week after recording a drop
in the demand for merchandise and supplies from the tunnels it controls along
the Philadelphi Corridor between Gaza and Egypt.
Last June, Israel
decided to ease the restrictions on the transfer of goods to the Gaza Strip in
response to the international criticism it faced following the botched navy raid
on the Mavi Marmara
Turkish passenger ship.
Under the new Israeli
regulations, Palestinians from Gaza are allowed to import all goods except those
that appear on a blacklist and that are mostly dual-use, meaning that they could
be used for both civilian and terrorist purposes.
Ibrahim Jaber, a senior
Hamas Finance Ministry official, said this week that Israeli products that have
a local substitute in Gaza – such as furniture, plastics, soft drinks and a
variety of food products – would be banned.
Another Hamas official was
quoted in the Arab press as saying that the group preferred to do business with
Arab countries such as Egypt, rather than Israel.
officials said Tuesday that the move was likely an indication of the financial
distress Hamas was encountering following Israel’s decision last year to relax
restrictions over the Gaza Strip.
“Hamas wants to retain its hold on the
market,” one official explained.
According to information received by
Israel, Palestinian merchants who break the Hamas ban on certain Israeli goods
will face legal charges.
Hamas has also stopped the daily fuel supplies
it used to receive from Israeli energy company Dor Alon. In the past, Dor Alon
used to transfer about 1,000 liters a day to the Gaza Strip for the power
station, but now Hamas prefers to receive its fuel from a contraband pipeline it
has set up through a tunnel under the Egyptian-Gazan border.
officials said they were prepared to resume fuel supplies as per the request of
the Palestinian Authority.