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Flour mills close in Gaza; emergency wheat supplies enter

Jan. 21, 2011 9:57 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 21, 2011 8:05 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- After eight days of closure, Israeli authorities announced the brief opening of the bulk goods crossing at Karni, but said the southernmost crossing would remain closed for the day.

The opening of Karni on a Friday marks the first time any crossing has been opened on the final day of the week since February 2009. Officials said 80 truckloads of wheat and animal fodder would be delivered through the terminal.

The shipment came after the Palestinian union of food industries announced the closure of all Gaza flour mills, citing a severe shortage of wheat.

The shortage, officials said, was directly related to the closure of Karni as of 13 January. The crossing is the only operational bulk goods terminal, and was once the primary station for the import and export of goods from the coastal enclave.

Closing the bulk goods crossing only exacerbated the wheat crisis, officials in Gaza said, adding that wheat levels had been low since mid-October 2010.

The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has been consistently warning of a wheat crisis for months. UN reports cite the refusal of crossings officials to extend the operational hours of Karni, despite an increase in the import of construction materials which also enter through the terminal.

Time allocated for the entrance of wheat and animal feed was thus cut in half when Israel announced in June that it would ease its blockade of Gaza.

Kerem Shalom, which for the past week has been the sole delivery point for the commercial and humanitarian supplies for the entire Gaza Strip, was closed.
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