karni crossing 298.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The passage of basic staples into Gaza through two secondary border crossings under Israeli control averted an immediate humanitarian crisis on Sunday, according to John Ging, who heads the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza.
"We have reached a solution for our immediate needs. We can continue with our food distribution schedule," Ging told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday night.
But Ging warned that the step was only a stop gap measure. He said the crippled Gaza economy could sink even deeper into crisis if the Karni crossing, the main passageway for goods, were not reopened soon.
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Karni crossing has been closed for almost two weeks ever since Hamas took over Gaza.
"What we need to do now is avert a long-term crisis," Ging said.
According to Shlomo Dror, spokesman for the Coordinator of Activities in the Territories, it would be technically difficult to reopen Karni because much of the terminal's apparatus on the Palestinian side was destroyed during the violence between Fatah and Hamas. Also, crossing points into Gaza from Israel and Egypt had been manned by Fatah, and now that they're gone, there was no one to talk with on the Gaza side, said Dror.
Israel has found a short-term solution and in the last few days has sent basic supplies into Gaza through the two secondary terminals, Kerem Shalom and Sufa.
It is looking to send some 100 trucks a day into Gaza through both crossings, with staples such as flour, sugar, oil, milk, medicine and cattle feed. For the Gaza economy to function, according to Dror, one would need 500 trucks a day heading in and out of the area, and that level of operation could only exist if Karni were reopened, Dror continued. The situation has not returned to normal, he said, but "there is no humanitarian crisis."
The subject of the crossings is expected to come up at the four-way meeting scheduled in Sharm e-Sheikh in Egypt on Monday, in which Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will meet with leaders from Egypt, Jordan and the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority.
In addition to Karni, the Erez crossing has been open for limited pedestrian traffic and medical supplies. The Rafah crossing, which borders Gaza and Egypt, has been closed.
On Sunday, Col. Nir Press, head of the Gaza Coordination Liaison Administration, and other members of the IDF in charge of the border crossing met with Ging to discuss ways to facilitate humanitarian assistance to Gaza. Ging said the meeting was very productive and among other things allowed for the passage of some 104 containers of goods that had been stuck in Ashdod. He thanked the IDF for their efforts in helping to alleviate the crisis.
"They have been very proactive since the crossings have been closed. We have had excellent cooperation," Ging said.
Still, he said, "there is no substitute for Karni crossing. We will continue to focus on opening it. In the meantime we are making full use of the other crossings to creatively mitigate the worst effects [of the closures]."