Gaza Farmers To Resume Exports to Israel

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters) -

Israel will start buying some fruit and vegetables from the Gaza Strip next week, a partial resumption of imports halted when Hamas took over the Palestinian territory in 2007, Israeli officials said.

They said the measure was designed to help a Gaza economy devastated by last year’s war with Israel, and to make up for a shortfall in produce from Israeli farmlands left fallow during the current Shemittah year.

The move was welcomed by Jamal Abu al-Naja, director of the Gaza Vegetable Production and Export Association, who said he hoped it would help make up farmers losses and eventually encourage working farms to seek bank funding to expand their production.

Some Palestinian farmers stopped cultivating their fields
altogether or sold their land to housing developers after Israeli markets were closed to them in 2007.

Israel has been gradually relaxing restrictions on commerce across its border since the July-August war. It has allowed Israeli transit of Gaza-produced vegetables and Palestinian merchants to Yehudah and Shomron, and for Gaza farmers to bring tractors in via Israel since November.

COGAT, the Israeli military agency that oversees civilian interaction with Gaza, said a shipment of tomatoes and eggplants would be brought in from the territory on Sunday.

“Future stages are expected to include a wider variety of vegetables, totaling 1,000 to 1,500 tons. Each ton is valued at approximately 3,000 shekels ($750),” COGAT said in a statement, adding that the imports were scheduled to run the duration of the Jewish calendar year that expires in September.

“The steps taken are meant to support the Palestinian population while segregating the Hamas organization, which is a terror entity that prevents the reconstruction of Gaza and uses its resources,” COGAT head Major-General Yoav Mordechai said.