Number of trucks carrying produce from Gaza has tripled in past three months.
By DAN IZENBERG
The number of trucks carrying export produce from the Gaza Strip has tripled in the past three months due to security and infrastructural improvements on the Palestinian side of the Karni crossing, a senior diplomatic official told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the improvements were part of a plan to beef up security at the crossing at the initiative of Lt. Gen. Keith W. Dayton, Washington's security coordinator for the Palestinians.
The costs of the plan are being underwritten by various governments. So far, the international community has raised up to $6 million to make the crossing safer and more efficient so that it will not be shut down by Israel because of security threats and so the Palestinians will be able to handle an increasingly larger number of trucks per day.
The Palestinians are responsible for making sure that the trucks entering Israel do not carry explosives or smuggle in terrorists or contraband goods.
The official estimated that it would take one more year to complete the project and that the total cost would be $20 million.
Security on the Palestinian side of the crossing has been taken over de facto in the past six weeks by forces of the Presidential Guard, which Israel is said to regard as a well-disciplined and effective force.
According to the latest report by the United Nations on the implementation of the Agreement of Access and Movement of November 15, 2005, 400 trucks per day were supposed to be examined and processed on the Gaza Side of the terminal before entering Israel. The November 30 figure was 44, up from 33.5 the previous month, still far short of the target figure.
The Karni crossing is considered the Gaza Strip's lifeline. It is the only way to import and export goods to and from the Gaza Strip, which has no airport or seaport and whose direct link with Egypt, the Rafah terminal, has been closed almost continuously since the kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Shalit on June 25. Furthermore, the Rafah crossing only handles human traffic.
There are other indications that the situation at the Karni crossing has improved, according to the latest UN report. For example, it was opened on all 12 scheduled operating days, even though for only an average of half the scheduled hours.
Furthermore, a total of 2,774 trucks were allowed into Gaza in 12 operating days, so that the lack of basic humanitarian supplies, including medicine and flour, has been alleviated. Gaza suffered heavily when the crossing was closed to trucks coming into the strip.
Brig.-Gen. (Res.) Baruch Spiegel, former special advisor to the minister of defense in matters pertaining to the fabric of life, warned that unless the Palestinians put an end to the violence in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli government would have no choice but to close the terminal again.
Speaking at a symposium at Jerusalem's Van Leer Institute on "Gaza Strip: The Politics of Chaos," Spiegel said, "if no power takes over on the Palestinian side, Karni will be closed again and we will be on the edge of a humanitarian crisis."
Meanwhile, Gisha, the Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, wrote a third letter to Defense Minister Amir Peretz, the head of the coordinator of government activities in the territories, complaining that since June 25, the Rafah border crossing has been open only 25 days.
Gisha charged that the army was using the crossing "as part of its measures to apply pressure against the Palestinian population" and that it constituted "collective punishment."
Attorney Allegra Pacheco, who represents the UN, said that speaking in an unofficial capacity, the Palestinians should open their own autonomous port that would be entirely independent of Israeli control.
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