The eve of Eid al-Adha celebrated this week brought news of a shortage of flour in the Gaza Strip. For the past two weeks, traders and flour mill owners have warned of shortages of wheat in the Strip, claiming that the mills have been providing about half of their production capacity. The mathematical formulas, which the army used to determine the level to which they would allow the stock of flour in Gaza to be reduced, are no longer in effect. So why is there a shortage?
Wheat is delivered to Gaza through the conveyer belt at the Karni crossing (currently the only operational part of the crossing, which was closed to trucks in June 2007). So far, the conveyer belt has been operational on only two days per week for the transfer of wheat and animal feed into Gaza. However, since mid-October, Israel has reduced the transfer of wheat and animal feed to just one day per week. On the other day, Israel allows gravel to be transferred to the Strip, pursuant to its June announcement regarding changes to the policy for the entry of goods into Gaza, including a promise to allow the entry of construction materials for projects run by international organizations. Incidentally, Israel also promised to open other land crossings “if the need arises to further increase the capacity of the crossings”.
In practice, approvals for construction projects are extremely limited – since the change in policy, an average of 107 trucks carrying construction materials were allowed into Gaza per month compared to an average of about 5,000 trucks which entered Gaza every month prior to the closure. In addition, instead of opening additional crossing points, Israel has announced its intention to close the Karni conveyor belt and transfer all operations to Kerem Shalom.
Thus Israel’s promise to allow the entry of construction materials, which was supposed to be good news for the residents of Gaza, has created additional difficulties in transferring basic and essential nutritional ingredients. Israel refuses to increase the number of days the conveyor belt operates and with regard to opening additional crossing points – there is no room for discussion.
Moreover, the gravel which Israel allows into the Gaza Strip is not sufficient for the construction planned by international organizations. According to UNRWA, at this rate, it will take 75 years to implement the organization’s plan to rehabilitate Gaza. UNRWA, incidentally, is also facing a shortage in its flour reserves, because it buys flour from the local market in Gaza after the wheat is transferred to the Strip through the Karni crossing.