'Karni opening helped Gaza economy'

Drop in terror threats led to increase in transfer of raw materials into Gaza.

karni crossing 298 88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
karni crossing 298 88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
While tensions rise in the Gaza Strip ahead of a possible IDF operation in response to daily Kassam rocket attacks, 16,600 jobs have been created there in the last three months, with unemployment down - over the past six months - by close to 7 percent. According to Col. Nir Press, commander of the IDF Coordination and Liaison Administration, a drop in terror threats to the Karni Crossing has led to an increase in the transfer of raw materials into Gaza, creating new jobs. Nevertheless, he stressed, unemployment in Gaza remained at just over 30%. The increase in jobs in the last quarter followed a similar rise in the previous quarter, when 19,100 jobs were created, including 10,500 in agriculture. This past quarter, only several hundred out of the 16,600 new workers found jobs in agriculture, with the majority finding work in transportation, communications and construction. On Thursday, Press met with the Dutch representative to the Palestinian Authority as well as a Gaza-based Palestinian agricultural union chief at his office at the Erez Crossing to sum up the Gaza flower export season that ended this week. According to the Coordination and Liaison Administration, 43 million carnations were exported to Europe from the Gaza Strip this past season, up from 17 million in 2006. The Palestinian farmers told Press during the meeting that they made a profit of €4.5m. A World Bank report issued last week blamed Israel for stifling the Palestinian economy by limiting movement in the West Bank and Gaza. Press told The Jerusalem Post the increases in jobs and flower exports were due to both improved coordination and a Palestinian effort to deter terrorists from attacking the Karni Crossing, the main artery for cargo in and out of the Gaza Strip. In 2006, Karni was closed for nearly 100 days due to intelligence warnings of planned attacks. Last summer, a vast tunnel - intended to be filled with explosives - was discovered being dug under the crossing. "Last year, when there were the security warnings Karni was closed... and a lot of flowers went down the drain," Press said. "Since September, however, Karni has been open daily except for some days when it was closed due to labor strikes on the Palestinian side." In April, the Coordination and Liaison Administration, together with the Israel Airports Authority, decided to add another shift at Karni and the crossing is now open daily until 11 p.m. "The security situation and the terrorism directed at the crossings first of all have a negative effect on the Palestinian civilian population," Press said. "The new numbers prove the difference a drop in terror can make."