This is how, at the last minute, the first shipment of commercial goods from Gaza to the West Bank was canceled

Is the closure ending? Image: Eman Mohammed

Is the closure ending? Image: Eman Mohammed

October 14, 2014. Two truckloads of agricultural products were expected to exit the Gaza Strip today for sale in the West Bank. The short drive to Hebron would have symbolized the first time that commercial access would have been permitted between Gaza and the West Bank since July 2007- but it didn’t happen. The trucks, one carrying sweet potatoes and the other dates, were sent back to the Strip, at a cost of tens of thousands of shekels to their respective sellers.

Despite meetings which took place between the Israeli and Palestinian agricultural coordinators, the procedures that are to regulate the marketing of products from Gaza to the West Bank were not published. This led to misunderstandings between the relevant parties, specifically as concerned demands regarding packaging and labeling. The goods cannot be re-refrigerated and so the farmers will be compelled to sell what they can on the local market and destroy the rest.

Next Wednesday, October 22, a meeting is planned for the Israeli and Palestinian agricultural coordinators along with 18 representatives of the private sector from Gaza in order to hammer out the details related to the potential marketing of goods from Gaza to the West Bank. The Palestinian side is asking that Israel publish its guidelines in an organized way on the matter and that it make the most of the scanner at Kerem Shalom to allow goods to cross in a cost-effective way.

Construction materials

Seventy-five truckloads of construction materials were expected to enter Gaza today for the private sector for the first time in a year (other than a one-time gesture last winter). The shipment of materials, all coming from Israel, was expected to be composed of 15 truckloads of cement, 10 of steel, and 50 of gravel. Two contractors were to receive the materials, denoted for the construction of housing units.

At present, it’s not clear whether construction materials will continue to flow in steadily in the future and at what pace. We don’t have details beyond what has been published by the United Nations regarding the construction materials coordination mechanism, how it will work and who will be responsible for implementing it.

Gisha expresses its hope that all the relevant criteria and procedures for any new policy on access will be published and then implemented in a speedy way that allows for the maximum possible movement and access. In other words, that these are indeed indications of an impending and full reversal of the civilian closure on Gaza.