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Israel stalls on promised Gaza exports

Dec. 23, 2010 8:55 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 24, 2010 5:30 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Two days after Israeli authorities approved the transport of Gaza strawberries into the West Bank, Dutch officials behind the project said foot dragging had delayed the first delivery.

The PA Ministry of Agriculture said that it expected to receive a full list of items to be permitted out of Gaza on 30 December, with a wider scale export expected in the new year.

Organizers of a Dutch government program said they had already received approval for the transfer of Gaza strawberries and carnations into the West Bank for Christmas.

"Unfortunately, the Israeli informed us yesterday evening that it is not going to be today and we are currently working on this issue if it can be delivered on Sunday," spokesman for the Dutch consulate in Jerusalem Zaid Sharia told Ma'an.

The program facilitated by the consulate had already shipped hundreds of tons of berries and flowers to Europe, and Ziad said the deal with Israel was to allow 250 tons of strawberries to reach the West Bank market.

The Dutch program was also given approval for the export of peppers and cherry tomatoes to Europe, but it was not clear whether the goods would also be able to enter the West Bank.

The approval for export to the West Bank and Europe will soon extend beyond the Dutch program, through which the only exports have left Gaza for the last three and a half years. A report in Israel's Haaretz newspaper said Thursday that the new year would see Israel allow farmers and private businessmen to export goods from Gaza.

The goods will be allowed to exit Gaza even if they are not labeled as an "international project" – which was previously the sole way such exports were allowed by Israel, the paper reported.

But the report only noted the peppers expected for export on Sunday, which Dutch officials said was going through as part of their program.
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