Export from Gaza: Much too little

A truck in Gaza, by Eman Mohammed for Gisha

Limited agricultural export from Gaza to Europe begins – 35 trucks in November and December (up to the 9th) • The WHO warns against further deterioration in Gaza • Israel allows miniscule quantities of construction materials into the Gaza Strip • Travel through Rafah drops sharply

November 26th saw the beginning of the agricultural export season from Gaza to Europe, subsidized in part by the Dutch government. Ten truckloads of agricultural products left the Gaza Strip in November – just one percent of the average monthly export volume in 2007, before the closure.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who visited the region earlier this week, cancelled an event that was due to take place at the Kerem Shalom crossing to inaugurate a scanner donated by his government to the Palestinian Authority. The Dutch Prime Minister cancelled the inauguration ceremony after Israel refused to allow use of the scanner to screen goods exiting from Gaza to the West Bank.

Haaretz reported that Israel told the visiting delegation that the sale of Gaza-grown and -made products in the West Bank conflicts with the "separation policy" and that Israel was interested in maintaining the separation between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for security reasons.

The World Health Organization reported this week that Gaza's health sector is experiencing a 30% shortage of medicines. The shortage compels doctors to refer some patients, such as those needing chemotherapy, for expensive treatment outside the Strip. It has also led to a rise in the cost of medical care, due in part to the fact that patients often do not receive adequate or timely treatment causing further health complications.

Long power outages, still lasting an average of 16 hours per day, result in overuse of generators in hospitals and some are beginning to malfunction. For example, one of the two generators servicing the European Gaza Hospital stopped working in November. Over the past few months, government hospitals in Gaza have cut the number of surgeries by half and are performing only emergency surgeries in an effort to conserve fuel and medicine.

Construction materials
Israel announced this week that it would allow construction materials designated for 10 UNRWA projects to enter Gaza via Kerem Shalom. The projects had been halted as a result of the Israeli security establishment's October 13th decision to block the transfer of construction materials to the Gaza Strip. From August to October 13, 44,447 tons of construction materials destined for international organizations entered the Gaza Strip, and 38,320 tons for the private sector.

According to Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom (Hebrew), construction materials brought into Gaza will now be monitored directly by international organizations, rather than by subcontractors, as had been the practice in the past.

In the meantime, construction materials continue to enter Gaza via Rafah Crossing for construction projects funded by Qatar.

Erez and Rafah Crossings
Travel via Rafah Crossing has dropped dramatically, while there has been little change in travel through Erez. In November, 5,502 exits by Palestinians were recorded at Erez Crossing – a 7% drop from the number recorded in October. However, this figure still represents a 33% increase in the number of exits compared to the monthly average during the first half of 2013.

Rafah Crossing was closed for 20 days in November, 66% of the time. There was an 85% drop in the volume of travel, in both directions, compared to the monthly average during the first half of 2013. Travel in November was the lowest of the year.

On November 20, Gisha received the Defense Ministry's response to its request to allow Palestinians to travel via Erez, given reduced activity at Rafah. The Ministry of Defense rejected the request, stating that: "[C]urrent Israeli policy on travel by Gaza residents within the territory of the State of Israel satisfies the requirements of the law, including those of international law, and we see no room to introduce any arrangements in addition to those currently in effect".

Entrance of fuel for the private sector
During the month of November, there was an 86% increase in the amount of diesel which entered Gaza from Israel compared to the first half of 2013. However, the amount of diesel brought in through Kerem Shalom in November represents just 30% of the average monthly quantity of diesel brought into the Gaza Strip through the tunnels during the first half of the year.

Cooking gas
While the shortage in cooking gas in the Strip continues, Palestinian sources announced last week that Israel had agreed to the installation of gas reserve tanks on the Palestinian side of Kerem Shalom.