Gaza truck drivers strike to protest Karni closure

Sun., March 6, 2011 – Truck drivers in Gaza ceased transferring goods to and from the Kerem Shalom Crossing today in protest of last week’s closing of Karni Crossing and the price rises in bread and other basic goods expected as a result. The truck drivers refused to transfer incoming or outgoing trucks through Kerem Shalom, the small alternative crossing that, in light of the closure of Karni and the rest of commercial crossings, is now the only access route for goods into and out of Gaza. Israel does not permit import or export through the sea, the air, or the border with Egypt.

The truck drivers are asking that Karni Crossing be re-opened and that regular access be permitted through it. The closure of Karni, they say, raises the price of wheat, animal feed, and other goods that Israel has allowed via Karni in recent years. Prior to June 2007, Karni functioned as Gaza’s commercial lifeline, with a capacity of 1,000 trucks per day in both directions, in contrast to 250 trucks per day at Kerem Shalom. However, since June 2007, Israel has banned export via Karni and limited imports to a grain conveyer belt. Last Wednesday, Israel closed the conveyer belt as well, forcing all passage via Kerem Shalom.

The price of bread and animal feed is expected to rise because of increased transportation costs stemming from Kerem Shalom’s remote location and the poor quality of the roads leading from Kerem Shalom to Gaza City.

The truck drivers are demanding that Israel re-open Karni to regular incoming and outgoing trucks, noting that Karni’s advanced technological equipment allows them to transfer goods from truck to truck, in contrast to the more expensive palletization methods used at Kerem Shalom. The absence of refrigeration storage at Kerem Shalom also leads to food spoilage.

Since 2007, Israel has closed three of Gaza’s four commercial crossings. Currently, Israel is allowing 40% of Gaza’s need for incoming trucks, and just 1% of its outgoing needs, despite promises to lift the ban on exports. The ban on export and on incoming construction materials is preventing economic recovery and development keeping Gaza’s factory and construction workers unemployed and dependent on international assistance.

According to Gisha Director Sari Bashi: "Israel’s decision to close Karni will raise the price of bread for families in Gaza already struggling to put food on the table. Rather than considering opening new crossings, as Israel promised as part of its ‘easing’ of the closure, Israel is squeezing shut one of the last gateways into Gaza. The United States and international community have invested millions of dollars in advanced security equipment at Karni to protect Israel’s legitimate security interests at the crossings. That money is wasted unless Israel agrees to reopen Karni".