Gaza road shipments set to begin

Lorries move into Israel to pick up goods now permitted into besieged Palestinian enclave.


    Israel's critics and humanitarian groups say the easing of the blockade is "not enough"

    Al Jazeera's Nicole Johnston, reporting from the Kerem Shalom crossing, said there was a lot of uncertainty about what kind of products Israel was planning to allow into the besieged coastal enclave.

    "We that Israel won't allow the people of Gaza to export anything and we also know Israel won't allow import of raw materials," she said.

    'Bit of excitement'

    Our correspondent said people had greeted the news of items expected in the next few days with "quite a bit of excitement."

    "Israel will be allowing spare parts for cars into Gaza. That hasn't been allowed in for a few years although it has been smuggled through tunnels," she said.

    "It will also allow oil for engines, tyres, spare parts for agriculture, furniture, make-up and perfume."

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    Officials at a freight terminal at the Israeli side of the crossing said they were ready to handle up to 120 lorryloads a day of food and trade goods for Gaza as soon as Palestinian co-ordinators organise the extra capacity on their side.

    "The list of items that will not be allowed into the Gaza Strip is still being concluded and will be published later," an official said.

    At Kerem Shalom everything will be offloaded in big corrals made of two-storey high concrete slabs.

    After the Israeli lorries leave, the gates will closed, and Palestinian drivers coming in from the Gaza side will reload the shipments.

    Ahmed Yousef, the Hamas deputy foreign minister in Gaza, has dismissed Israel's new conditions as a public relations stunt and said it would not greatly improve conditions in Gaza.

    "This is just another way for Israel to deceive the world," he told Al Jazeera on Monday.

    The blockade of Gaza, implemented three years ago, has been criticised as collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians.

    Under pressure

    Israel came under strong pressure to ease the blockade after its May 31 raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla ships killed nine activists, sparking an international outcry.

    The naval blockade will remain even under the new rules.

    Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has said the new order "strengthens our position towards our friends" in the world.

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    Al Jazeera's Nicole Johnston reports from Gaza as the first lorries are on their way

    "It pulls the rug out from under Hamas's main propaganda tool and its patrons in Iran, who pretend there's a humanitarian crisis in Gaza," he said on Monday.

    Israel has said the siege is a necessary measure to prevent smuggling of weapons to Hamas, which rules the strip.

    Hamas dismisses the Israeli reasoning as untrue.

    Gilad Erdan, Israel's environment minister, admitted that the blockade did not achieve the desired effect of weakening Hamas.

    "The blockade caused damage to us: it did not enable us to weaken the Hamas power or to speed up the release of Gilad Shalit," he told Israel army radio.

    "One should not cling to principles that bring no profit and for which one has to pay."

    Unfettered access urged

    Critics say the new rules could still make it difficult to import building materials to rebuild the territory, which was heavily damaged during Israel's 22-day assault which started in late December 2008.

    Christopher Gunness of UNRWA, the United Nations relief agency that looks after Palestinian refugees, said: "We need to have the blockade fully lifted."

    "The Israeli strategy is to make the international community talk about a bag of cement here, a project there. We need full unfettered access through all the crossings," he told the Reuters news agency.

    Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, also repeated his calls for the total removal of the blockade.

    He said that letting some materials in was not the way to end the suffering of Palestinians in the enclave.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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