Roundup: Israel expands Gaza crossing as PA goes further with WB settlement product boycott
Sunday, July 25, 2021 9:31 AM

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RAMALLAH, Jul. 25, 2010 (Xinhua News Agency) -- A senior Palestinian official announced on Sunday that Israel is conducting expansion works at a key Gaza commercial crossing, while the Palestinian Authority (PA) vowed tough penalties against dealers importing products made in Israeli West Bank settlement.

Raed Fatouh, the Palestinian official liaising entrance of goods into the Hamas-run enclave, told Xinhua that the expansion of the Palestinian side of Kerem Shalom commercial crossing point between southern Gaza Strip and Israel has been ongoing for several days.

"The crossing will be expanded to be able to receive around 300 trucks daily as of August, compared to 160 trucks now. The trucks will be loaded with different kinds of new items and products that will be allowed into Gaza soon," said Fatouh.

In June, the Israeli government decided to relax a tight blockade on the Gaza Strip it imposed after the Islamic movement of Hamas seized control of the coastal territory by force in June 2007.

The Israeli decision to ease the blockade came in response to an increasing international pressure after the Israeli naval commandos stormed a Gaza-bound aid flotilla on May 31, killing nine Turkish activists.

Kerem Shalom crossing is the main crossing used to transfer humanitarian aid as well as products, fuel and cooking gas. The crossing is on the borders between southeast Gaza Strip and Israel, and also close to the borders with Egypt.

"More new items of goods and products will be allowed in the Gaza Strip as of August, except the items listed by Israel in what it called the black list, which include raw-materials used for construction, industry and agriculture," said Fatouh.

Gaza has been completely isolated from the West Bank, as the impoverished enclave is under Hamas control while the West Bank is ruled by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party. Since Hamas takeover of Gaza in June 2007, there have been no commercial ties between the two Palestinian territories.

"After Kerem Shalom is expanded, the priority will be given for allowing more items produced in the West Bank and abroad, as well as transferring all Gaza Strip products to the West Bank," said Fatouh, adding that Israel had increased the allowed items of goods and products into Gaza by 50 percent.

Meanwhile, the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority on Sunday said that merchants importing and selling products of the Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory of West Bank would be penalized as from the beginning of August.

The dealers importing the settlements products "would have to pay hefty fines or might be imprisoned," Palestinian Minister of Economy Hassan Abu Libda told reporters.

Abu Libda added that his ministry would inspect the markets next month and search all stores "and would refer anybody dealing with the settlements' products to justice."

August 1 marks the end of an eight-month ultimatum the PA had given to Palestinian dealers to stop importing goods produced in Jewish settlements illegally built on occupied Palestinian lands. Prior to the ultimatum, President Abbas issued a decree outlawing settlement products.

Settlements stand as a thorny issue blocking Israeli and Palestinians from making progress in peace negotiations that aim to create a Palestinian statehood alongside Israel.

On Saturday, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat announced that if the Israeli government announced a halt of settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and showed a commitment to the two-state solution, the Palestinians would consider going for direct negotiations.

PA officials had earlier announced that the four-month U.S.- sponsored proximity talks launched on May 9 hadn't achieved any progress, mainly in regard to the issue of the future Palestinian state's borders and the security issue.

 

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