Israel exports Gaza cucumbers to West Bank
GAZA CITY - Israel on Thursday allowed the export of Gazan cucumbers to the West Bank for the first time in seven years, a Palestinian official at the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing said.
"A first lorry-load of cucumbers from Gaza reached Hebron in the southern West Bank," said Raed Fattuh, head coordinator for the Palestinian Authority at the Kerem Shalom crossing between southern Gaza and Israel.
In an Arabic-language posting on Twitter, the Israeli army confirmed that 10 tonnes of cucumbers from Gaza had crossed into the West Bank and which would be followed by "a tonne of fish on Sunday".
According to Fattuh, Israel has "recently authorised the transportation of both fish and agricultural products from Gaza to the West Bank after having banned it" since 2007.
Israel first imposed a blockade on Gaza in 2006 after militants there snatched one of its soldiers, but the measure was significantly tightened a year later when the Islamist Hamas movement forcibly seized control of the territory, which is home to 1.8 million people.
Gisha, an Israeli NGO which lobbies for greater freedom of access and movement for Palestinians, welcomed the latest development and said exports should be expanded to include manufactured goods.
"Access to markets in Israel and the West Bank is critical to rehabilitating Gaza's agricultural and industrial sectors," said Gisha Director Eitan Diamond.
"The restrictions on marketing goods have no security justification. Israel must lift the obstacles that prevent Palestinians from developing their economy and leading their lives with dignity."
Before the ban was imposed in 2007, exports to the West Bank and Israel accounted for 85 percent of goods being shipped out of Gaza, Gisha figures show.
Although the blockade has been significantly eased in the years since 2007, Israel left the export ban in place, alongside sweeping restrictions on movement between the West Bank and Gaza under what security officials have referred to as a "policy of separation" between the two territories.