Israel reopens Gaza crossings to allow passage of goods and pedestrians

UNRWA official says without political stability in the Strip ‘there will be another war.’

Flooding in Gaza over the weekend. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Flooding in Gaza over the weekend.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel on Tuesday reopened its two crossings into the Gaza Strip, Erez for pedestrians and Kerem Shalom for goods.
Israel closed the crossings on Sunday in response to a Palestinian- launched rocket from Gaza that hit the Eshkol region on Friday.
Friday’s attack, which did not cause damage or injuries, marked only the second time a rocket was launched against Israel since the August ceasefire ended a six-week military conflict between Israel and Gaza, known as Operation Protective Edge. No formal cease-fire arrangement has been reached, but following the war, Israel promised to ease restrictions at the crossings. The two-day closures marked the first time the crossings were closed since August.
Egypt, meanwhile, has closed Gaza’s third crossing, at its Rafah border, and is creating a buffer zone to stop Hamas from rebuilding smuggling tunnels along that border.
Israel, the UN and the Palestinian Authority have agreed on a monitoring mechanism to allow construction material to enter Gaza to rebuild the thousands of homes that were damaged or destroyed during the war, but so far only a small amount of gravel and other supplies have entered Gaza.
On Monday evening the UN Special Coordinator for the Peace Process Robert Serry confirmed that the monitoring mechanism was in place.
“As of Monday evening, some 700 beneficiaries were able to purchase much needed construction material in order to start the rehabilitation of their homes after the recent devastating conflict in Gaza,” he said. But he said, for those efforts to be successful, the Palestinian government of national consensus must be in charge of the crossing on the Gaza side.
Speaking from Gaza on Tuesday, Robert Turner, director of operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, said the lack of an effective or united Palestinian government in place in Gaza leaves it at risk for another outbreak of fighting.
He said the extent of damage and homelessness after the summer war was worse than first thought. The latest estimates suggested reconstruction would take two to three years if all went well, he said.
“I do not see the national consensus government effectively governing Gaza,” said Turner, referring to a technocrat cabinet agreed in June between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. “If we do not have political stability, I think if we do not have a national Palestinian government, I think if we do not have at least an easing of the blockade, yes there will be another war.”
Economists in Gaza have estimated that as many as 400 trucks of equipment – from concrete to building materials and machinery – are needed every day for the next six months to meet the demand, but so far only around 75 trucks have made deliveries.
“I know there is frustration at the pace of reconstruction,” Turner said.
“There are a number of weak points, choke points, and the mechanism is one. We need political progress or we will not have the resources to do reconstruction regardless of what mechanism we have.”
Turner was optimistic the volume could be greatly increased if political stability could be brought to bear and if Egypt and Israel fully lifted their combined blockade.
“If the political will exists...
expanding the crossing to 800 trucks a day is just a matter of paying for the expansion.”