Hamas wants raw materials in Gaza

Ministers reject Israel's relaxation of food restrictions.

By AP
June 10, 2010 19:03
3 minute read.
Gaza bound truck

311_Gaza crossing. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post))

Hamas leaders said they will not let newly approved food items into the Gaza Strip as long as Israel maintains its blockade of the territory.

Israel slightly eased the blockade on Wednesday by permitting snacks, spices, juices and some other previously banned food items into Gaza.

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On Wednesday, Palestinian liaison official Raed Fattouh, who coordinates the flow of goods into Gaza with Israel, said that soda, juice, jam, spices, shaving cream, potato chips, cookies and candy were now permitted. Some products have already entered Gaza, and others would cross in the coming days, he said.

The ban remained in place on all construction and industrial materials.

Hamas' economy minister, Ziad al-Zaza, said on Thursday that Gaza does not need soda and soft drinks.He said it needs raw materials so shuttered factories can start producing their own products.

Diplomatic officials, keen on disassociating the recent ease on the Gaza ban from last week’s flotilla raid, stressed that Israel has steadily expanded the quantity of goods going into Gaza by some 20 percent over the last six months, and in parallel increased the diversity of the items allowed in.

“Our principle is clear,” one senior official said. “To prevent weaponry and material from reaching Gaza that could help Hamas, but at the same time to allow the transfer of civilian goods to Gaza’s civilian population.”

The official said that as long as Hamas declares war on Israel, as long “as it considers every Israeli civilian a legitimate target,” Israel reserved the right to maintain economic sanctions on the Gaza Strip.

“Sanctions are a perfectly legal and legitimate tool in a situation of conflict,” the official said, “and whoever says it is collective punishment does not know what they are talking about. No one can expect that business will continue as usual with the Hamas regime.”

“We will not allow everything in, since Gilad Schalit is still held in Gaza and Hamas is still attacking us,” he added.

The defense representitive said that the decision to allow new foods into Gaza was part of a policy led by Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Eitan Dangot, who has put an emphasis on working with international organizations on civilian-related projects. Officials said that there were currently 10 projects under way between the IDF and various international organizations in Gaza, for which Israel was also permitting the entry of cement and building materials.

'Israel's measures to help Gaza fall short'

But according to Sari Bashi, executive director of Gisha – The Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, the IDF measures fall far short of what the people in Gaza need.

Before the closure of the land passages in 2007, 10,400 truckloads of goods went into Gaza each month, Bashi said.

In the past year, less than 25% of that amount has entered the Strip, an average of 2,300 truckloads a month, she said.

When one compares truckloads from June to November 2009 with those from December 2009 to May 29, 2010, the increase is only 2%, she said.

Bashi said none of the IDF measures would allow for a revival of the Gazan economy, which would be necessary to restore normal life in the area.

One government source said that by easing up on what is allowed into Gaza, Israel aims to preserve the naval blockade.

The Gaza naval blockade is seen as critical to Israel’s national security, and as a result – the official said – Israel was willing to be more forthcoming regarding what goods can go overland into the area, in order to deflect international pressure over the naval blockade.


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