Saturday, September 23, 2017

Gaza‘s Erez crossing open to commercial traffic for first time since 2007


By Lili Martinez - July 14, 2016
TAGS:
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Gaza] [Erez checkpoint]

Israeli officials announced Wednesday the official opening of the Erez crossing between Israel and the northern edge of the Gaza Strip to commercial traffic, after nine years of closure. Yesterday’s opening implements an announcement made in May by former defense minister Moshe Yaalon, who stated that the Israeli government would allow commercial traffic through the crossing.

The change was confirmed by a deal signed by the Palestinian Civil Affairs Ministry and Israel on Monday which stipulated commercial traffic could begin crossing at Erez. Israel also recently signed a deal with Turkey which would allow aid ships to reach Gaza for the first time in years.

According to an AFP photographer, deliveries began arriving yesterday through the crossing, which previously had only allowed individual vehicle traffic. Since Erez’s closing in 2007 to imports, commercial deliveries had been restricted to the Karem Shalom checkpoint in southern Gaza.

The Erez crossing into Gaza is much closer to major Israeli cities, and its opening should help facilitate the flow of traffic and boost Gaza’s economy, according to a statement by COGAT, the Defense Ministry body responsible for implementing Israeli government policies in the occupied Palestinian territories.

“This measure has been taken to facilitate the work of Palestinian importers and thus help the economy of the Gaza Strip,” a COGAT spokesman told AFP.

Residents of Israeli towns near the Karem Shalom crossing had reportedly complained for years about the pollution and noise caused by the hundreds of trucks crossing the checkpoint each day.

Palestinian Civil Affairs Ministry official Mohamed al-Maqadama told Anadolu Agency that 100 trucks and buses were expected to pass through the checkpoint today.

Israeli authorities closed Erez crossing in 2007, after Hamas took over the Gaza strip, in an attempt to cripple the group’s ability to operate there. However, the ongoing blockade of Gaza has far-reaching consequences, depriving its nearly two million inhabitants of basic commodities like food, fuel, medicine and building materials. According to the World Bank, the blockade has pushed Gaza’s economy to the brink of collapse. 

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