Protests by truck drivers kept hundreds of tons of produce and other goods from entering the Gaza Strip on Tuesday.
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The drivers were objecting to the conduct of traffic police at the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza.
Merchants also complained of other problems that they said were preventing goods from being unloaded at the crossing and then reloaded onto Palestinian trucks.
Muin Azeizeh, who owns a trucking company, told Haaretz that over the last few days, a large contingent of traffic police has descended on the crossing and served drivers with dozens of tickets.
“Within three days, they’ve accumulated tickets totaling 8,500 shekels ($2,200),” he said. “That’s something we can’t accept, even in the name of enforcing the law.”
Azeizeh argued that since hundreds of trucks come to the crossing from all over Israel, they could be checked at earlier points on the route.
He alleged that police were focusing on Kerem Shalom so as to reduce the number of trucks in the area which disturb residents of local communities.
Aside from the stepped-up activity by traffic police, farmers have also complained that Palestinian trucks at the crossing are being subjected to heightened security checks and are therefore unable to load up before 2 P.M. – with the result that many trucks are unable to move any produce at all.
Since Kerem Shalom is the only cargo crossing between Israel and Gaza, the cargo passing through it is vital to Gaza’s 1.8 million inhabitants.
Palestinian sources said the tigher security seemed meant to punish Gaza for the continued rocket fire at Israel from the Strip and Hamas’ establishment of outposts near the crossing.
The Defense Ministry denied any delays were intentional and said changes made on the Palestinian side of the crossing had required adjustments on the Israeli side and that once necessary adjustments are made, “the crossing will resume normal activity.”
The police said that an increased presence of traffic police was meant to , thwart “life-threatening offenses" such as reckless driving and to minimize the number of vehicles on the road passing by residential communities.