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Sweet peppers leave Gaza for first time since '07

Dec. 26, 2010 1:54 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 30, 2010 10:07 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- "The first shipment of Gaza sweet peppers together with strawberries and carnations is on its way to Europe," a Dutch statement announced on Sunday, following long efforts to expand the list of goods permitted for export from the coastal enclave.

The 11 loads of goods, grown as part of a Dutch initiative to support cash crop farmers in Gaza, left the area through the only open crossing terminal, Kerem Shalom, as the bulk goods crossing remained closed, officials said.

"Obviously, the Dutch government is pleased of the continuation of the exports of agricultural produce to the international markets,” Dutch Representative to the Palestinian Authority Jack Twiss Quarles van Ufford said in a statement.

Exports to the West Bank, however, were delayed.

Project spokesman Ziad Sharia said that despite efforts to secure passage of Gaza strawberries to the West Bank before Christmas there was "still no progress" on obtaining permissions to let the goods through. "This may not happen in December," the official said, without explaining what the hold-up was.

As increased exports begin to leave the Gaza Strip, imports remain at one-third of the pre-siege levels, monitors from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report released on Tuesday.

Limited imports remained below the target of 400 truckloads a day, according to Palestinian Liaison official Raed Fattouh, who said he was told by his Israeli counterparts to expect the entry of 130-140 truckloads of goods and humanitarian aid, in addition to limited amounts of cooking and industrial fuel through the single open crossing.
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