UN: Palestinians lost $7m since Karni closure

The closure of the main cargo terminal between Israel and the Gaza Strip for more than two weeks has cost the Palestinian economy about US$7 million and is creating a shortage of basic goods and health supplies, according to a UN report. Israel closed the Karni crossing, the main outlet for Palestinian exports, on January 15 citing intelligence warnings of a planned Palestinian attack. Under a November agreement, reached under pressure from the United States, Israel agreed that Karni would remain open unless it came under a specific threat. If Karni was shut, cargo was to be diverted to the Erez crossing in northern Gaza, the main passage for Palestinian laborers who cross into Israel each day, according to the agreement. The IDF said it closed the crossing after work on a smuggling tunnel that was to run underneath it was discovered on the Palestinian side. Palestinian Interior Ministry spokesman Tawfik Abu Khoussa said Palestinian forces inspected the area for possible tunnels and uncovered nothing. The army said it had arranged alternative crossings for Palestinian cargo, but Abu Khoussa said no merchandise had passed through the border. According to a UN report released Tuesday, more than 100 tons of strawberries, flowers and other perishable crops had spoiled or were spoiling because of the closure. International relief supplies have also been blocked, the report said. Palestinian exporters say more than 2,000 truckloads of goods have been unable to leave Gaza, costing the economy some US$500,000 (€415,000) a day. Nabila Assaf, deputy director of Paltrade, an organization of Palestinian exporters, said no arrangement has been made for alternative crossings.