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Gaza: After 3 years, permitted goods found ruined

April 12, 2010 12:19 P.M. (Updated: April 19, 2010 1:34 P.M.)
Gaza – Ma'an – Gaza merchants were relieved last week when Israeli officials announced stocks relegated to storage units in Ashdod since 2007 were finally set to be transferred in, easing a three-year ban on clothing imports.

However, when merchants recieved the goods on Thursday, they were damaged beyond repair.

Merchants who gained permission to import goods into Gaza were forced to pay to store the goods in shipping containers in the Israeli port of Ashdod, only to discover that their wares were not on the list of the less than 50 items permitted into the coastal enclave under Israel's blockade.

Khan Younis clothing retailer Khaled Abu Sahlul said he was devastated when he unpacked a container of jeans stored in Ashdod since 2007. "I was shocked when I opened the containers, the jeans had been left out in the rain for days, months, maybe even years and were damaged beyond repair."

Abu Sahlul estimated that 80% of his order was not fit for sale, "What am I going to do with 35,000 pairs of soiled jeans?" he asked.

In addition to the cost of the clothing, Abu Sahlul said he paid 1,700 shekels (461 US dollars) per month over the last year to store the merchandise. "I thought I was paying that much to make sure the clothes were out of the rain," he said.

The merchant estimated his losses at more than half a million shekels (136,000 US dollars), and despairs at the thought that the nine other containers he is still paying to store in Ashdod are similarly ruined.

Palestinian crossings liaison officer in Gaza Raed Fattouh said officials in Ramallah sent a letter of protest to Israeli officials in light of reports like Abu Sahlul, who is just one of dozens of merchants reporting damaged goods.

The letter demanded compensation for the damages, as well as storage fees, but Fattouh was not optimistic that shop owners would see reparations in the near future.
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