Israel Permits 20 Trucks Full of Food to Enter the Gaza Strip

Palestinians: Gaza has been sealed in order to force PA to accept Kerem Shalom crossing.

On Monday, Israel permitted 20 trucks full of food to enter the Gaza Strip through the Sufa crossing.

The move is significant because the Gaza Strip has been completely sealed for the past month, barring the Rafah crossing, which was open for just one day after Israel completed its withdrawal from the coastal strip.

Palestinians believe that Israel closed the Rafah border crossing on September 7 in order to trigger the population to pressure the Palestinian Authority to accept the Kerem Shalom crossing under construction in Israel.

Israel expected that the PA would cooperate with the operation of the Israeli border terminal under construction at Kerem Shalom on the Israel-Egypt-Gaza border, as an interim step until both sides (with the mediation of Quartet coordinator James Wolfensohn) come to an agreement regarding Gaza Strip crossings.

The Palestinians, however, fear that the temporary arrangement will become a permanent one. They oppose a situation in which Palestinians pass from the Gaza Strip into Egypt via an Israeli border terminal where Israel has the authority to interrogate, prohibit travel and arrest any Palestinian.

As a compromise, the Palestinians propose that all travelers leave through the Rafah terminal, as a Gaza-Egypt border crossing, but that only people with Palestinian identity cards enter through it. Foreign nationals would use the Israeli crossing, Kerem Shalom. Exports from Gaza would go through the Rafah terminal, and imports would go through Kerem Shalom for a period of one year to preserve Israel's "customs envelope." The condition for this is the presence of a third party. The Palestinians agree to the presence of a third party at Rafah for security purposes.

According to Palestinian sources, Wolfensohn, currently attempting to renew talks on the border crossings, does not understand the Palestinian opposition to Kerem Shalom.

Meanwhile, Gaza is tightly closed: The Rafah crossing is closed completely, except the one day it operated with Egyptian-Palestinian cooperation and Israel's silent acquiescence. Karni, the cargo crossing, has been closed for a week. Even cabinet ministers and other VIPs have been unable to go through the Erez crossing this past week. Only a few sick people among hundreds requiring treatment in Israel were permitted to leave Gaza via Erez.