Israel is permitting goods from Gaza to be exported to the West Bank for the first time since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in a 2007 coup.
The first two truckloads of date bars will leave Gaza on Tuesday, as part of a World Food Programme project that provides school meals to children in the West Bank. Altogether, 13 truckloads of exports will be permitted.
Until the 2007 coup, Gaza's exports totaled 86 truckloads per day on average. More than 85 percent of these exports went to the West Bank.
"For five years, they haven't let me export," said Mohammed al-Talabani, who owns a cookie factory in Dir al-Balah that employs 400 people. "They're letting me do so now after eight months of negotiations. The World Food Programme bought 150 tons of cookies from me, and they'll give them to schools in the West Bank."
Sari Bashi, the director of Gisha - Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, termed the decision "an important step toward fulfilling the Israeli government's commitment to allow economic development for Palestinians living in Gaza.
The question is whether this is a one-time gesture to the WFP or a change in policy. If marketing goods to the West Bank can be approved once, why can't it be allowed on a routine basis?"
Since the start of the year, Israel has allowed Gaza to export two truckloads a day on average, but only to buyers overseas - where demand for Gaza's products is low while transportation costs are very high.
Consequently, all these exports have been subsidized by the international community, aside from one attempt to export tomatoes to Saudi Arabia that ended in the merchant losing money.
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