Gaza crossings 'ready for short-notice surge in traffic'

"If a political decision is taken, we can process 300 trucks every day," Crossing Points Authority head says.

palestinian boy gaza cart 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
palestinian boy gaza cart 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Israel's border crossings with the Gaza Strip can be adjusted to handle a significant increase of traffic on short notice, the head of Israel's Crossing Points Authority told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. "If a political decision is taken, we can process 300 trucks instead of the 100 trucks which cross into Gaza every day, and we can do this within a week of being notified," authority head Traber Bezalel said. Israel has come under mounting pressure from the US recently to ease restrictions on the crossings. Last week, the security cabinet linked any future opening of crossings into the Gaza Strip to progress on efforts to release kidnapped IDF soldier St.-Sgt. Gilad Schalit, who has spent over three years in captivity in Gaza. A defense source said last week that Israel was unlikely to reopen the crossings unless a Palestinian Authority border monitoring unit could be deployed on the Gaza side to coordinate the passage of goods and people. Bezalel stressed that every Gaza crossing was open at this time, adding that the authority was processing vehicles carrying goods, fuel and humanitarian supplies, as well as pedestrian traffic largely made up of journalists and members of international organizations. "We have 100 pedestrians crossing between Israel and Gaza every day," he said, adding, "Fuel enters Gaza at the Nahal Oz crossing." The Karni and Kerem Shalom crossings are also open to traffic, he said. Operating under the auspices of the Defense Ministry, the Crossing Points Authority employs civilians only, the majority of them from private companies who have won tenders to work at the sites. The employees face constant risk to their safety from Palestinian terrorists, who have targeted the crossings on several occasions with shooting and mortar attacks. Bezalel expressed exasperation that Palestinian terrorists were attacking crossing points being kept open to assist the Palestinian population of Gaza. "They should be ashamed," he said. "Everyone here knows the risk, and no employees are being held hostage," he added. The crossings have been beefed up with reinforced concrete and other defensive measures to withstand attacks, and employees are kept up to date with the latest threat level through intelligence briefings. "We do everything possible to provide a service. When danger levels peak, our work is minimized," Bezalel said. "It's business as usual at the crossings," he went on. "Things are going slowly, but we can be ready in a short time to keep the crossings open for longer, and to have a large quantity of traffic pass through."