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Israel 'set new restrictions' on Gaza business owners

Nov. 24, 2011 6:37 A.M. (Updated: Nov. 26, 2011 1:08 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israel has set new restrictions on business owners in Gaza, the head of Palestinian contractors said Thursday.

At a news conference in Gaza City, Osama Kahil said conditions were more difficult despite a recent meeting between businessmen from Gaza and Israeli officials.

"Media reports said the meeting between businessmen from Gaza and Israel resulted in facilitating the work for the Gazan businessmen, but Israel implemented that in its own way.

"Israel stopped issuing permits for businessmen, traders, and contractors to Israel and set some new restrictions that prevented them from continuing their work," Kahil said.

He said Israel had permitted the import of construction materials into the Gaza Strip "to recycle the blockade."

"Allowing construction materials, which are sold for a much higher price than those sent through tunnels, was done after Israeli traders pressured the government. They want to use us and keep the blockade on Gaza," Kahil said.

Lifting the blockade means allowing heavy machinery, construction tools, spare parts and cement needed to rebuild factories and complete construction projects, he added.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority crossings director Nathmi Mhanna announced Thursday that limited agricultural produce would be exported from Gaza starting Sunday.

Crossings coordinator Raed Fattouh told Ma'an that Gaza would export produce all over the world, beginning with a shipment of strawberries set to leave Sunday.

On Jan. 5, the first exports of flowers, tomatoes and sweet peppers will begin, he said adding that around 14 trucks would be exported daily.

Under the 2005 agreement signed by Israel, the target for exports from Gaza was set at 550 trucks per day, including 150 truckloads of agricultural produce. The limited export of strawberries and carnations is unlikely to ease the paralysis of the Gaza economy.

On Thursday, Israel allowed between 220-230 trucks to bring aid to the the Gaza Strip through the sole Kerem Shalom crossing, as well as 20 new cars.

In 2005, an average of 10,400 truckloads of goods were imported to the coastal enclave each month, according to a World Bank report.
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