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Middle East

Goods pour into Gaza, but no building supplies

A Palestinian man walks next to a truck loaded with mattresses after entering Gaza at the Kerem Shalom crossing, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip August 28, 2014. (REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)

KEREM SHALOM CROSSING, Palestine: Lorries heaped with goods bound for Gaza shops heaved into the war-torn enclave Thursday, but there was no sign of the much-needed building materials to start the all-important reconstruction.

An increasing number of trucks, carrying everything from biscuits and soft drinks to nappies, could be seen passing into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing, after a Tuesday cease-fire ended 50 days of bloody and destructive fighting.

Drivers clambered over huge stacks of sweets and canned food mounted on the back of their lorries, shouting to one another and at customs inspectors in the dusty yard of the crossing, as a handful of black-clad policemen wandered through the parked trucks.

Talib Abu Jaray, a 50-year-old driver, stood waiting for his cargo of vegetables to be cleared by customs inspectors, who were poring over a truckload of food aid from the Red Cross parked nearby.

He said the situation at the crossing had become "a little easier" since the cease-fire and that some items restricted by the Israelis had been allowed in again.

"But as for the things that the people of the Gaza Strip were waiting for, regarding construction materials, nothing has got through," Jaray said, angrily.

"There's a cease-fire but it's not enough. We want to build a state, a homeland, a new generation."

During the fighting, the crossing was open for humanitarian aid and fuel but Israel Thursday began allowing commercial goods through for the first time since the conflict started on July 8, bringing in much-needed goods for shops across the strip.

Since it imposed a blockade on the territory in 2006, Israel has limited the entry of building materials like concrete, cement and steel, saying militants could use them to build fortifications or tunnels.

Under the terms of the truce, Israel has agreed to ease the restrictions to allow materials for the construction of the battered enclave. But it was unclear exactly what would be allowed in.

The crossing's director, Mounir al-Ghalban, said he was expecting more trucks carrying stocks to line the shelves of Gaza's shops, but there was no sign of the material needed for reconstruction.

"Today about 300 lorries are expected to arrive, during the days of the war, around 200 lorries used to cross," he said.

"Now, what's needed urgently is the entry of building materials into the Gaza Strip."

At the neighboring Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, a busload of Palestinians trying to leave the enclave waited at the border to see if they would be given permission to enter.

Egyptian authorities shut the Rafah crossing to all but those with Egyptian and foreign passports, residency permits and the seriously wounded during much of the war.

Rafah, Gaza's only gateway to the world which is not controlled by Israel, is controlled by the Egyptian authorities, and therefore not technically included in the cease-fire agreement.

Crossing into Egypt is still an arduous process open to few from inside Gaza.

Those wishing to cross waited under the beating sun in a small reception area with plastic chairs.

Leaning against the bus for shade, 27-year-old Ali al-Slim had been waiting for two and a half hours for permission to enter Egypt.

Like many of the Gazans on his bus, he needs to go to Cairo for treatment as Gaza's hospitals, stretched to breaking point by the conflict, do not have the facilities to treat his illness.

"I need to go to Cairo for treatment, I have pancreatic cancer," he said, the sweat glistening on his face as he produced the health ministry document.

Mahmoud Smonu, a 19-year-old who is studying in Cairo, was hoping to be able to get back there, but was losing hope after waiting for hours in the sun.

"We have spent two and a half hours here waiting to enter, and there's not many people," he said. "The numbers are small."

"It was supposed to be easier after the truce".

 

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Summary

Lorries heaped with goods bound for Gaza shops heaved into the war-torn enclave Thursday, but there was no sign of the much-needed building materials to start the all-important reconstruction.

An increasing number of trucks, carrying everything from biscuits and soft drinks to nappies, could be seen passing into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing, after a Tuesday cease-fire ended 50 days of bloody and destructive fighting.

Talib Abu Jaray, a 50-year-old driver, stood waiting for his cargo of vegetables to be cleared by customs inspectors, who were poring over a truckload of food aid from the Red Cross parked nearby.

He said the situation at the crossing had become "a little easier" since the cease-fire and that some items restricted by the Israelis had been allowed in again.

Rafah, Gaza's only gateway to the world which is not controlled by Israel, is controlled by the Egyptian authorities, and therefore not technically included in the cease-fire agreement.

Crossing into Egypt is still an arduous process open to few from inside Gaza.


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