Crossing ready for more Gaza goods

More than 100 lorry loads of goods to enter Gaza after Israel changes siege conditions.

    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 Strip.

    "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.

    Tyres and make-up

    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.

    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.

    'Strengthened position'

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

    "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.

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

    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."

    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.

    'The devil will be in the details'

     The announcement by Israel to modify its policy comes after weeks and months of mounting international pressure on it to end its siege. Some say that is the only reason why Israel is doing this.

     What is important is that Israel has decided to shift its policy from allowing items into Gaza to prohibiting items it deems dangerous from entering.

     The devil will be in the details of what Israel prohibits and allows. Will it be made public and will it be constantly changing?

     The current system of allowing only dozens of items in was constantly criticised by groups that work in Gaza because the list keeps changing every week.

     This is not an end to Israel's siege on Gaza but an adjustment or modification.

     The security cabinet said last week it was "a liberalisation of the system by which goods are delivered into Gaza".

     How this policy is implemented on the ground will determine its true impact in the coming weeks and months.

     It should be noted that there is no mention of:

    - Raw material being allowed into Gaza for the resumption of economic activity.

    - Resumption of exports from Gaza of farm and factory products.

    - Free movement of people that are not for medical emergencies like family reunifications, employment and education.

    - Lifting of the naval restrictions on Gaza's coastline.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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