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Single truckload of strawberries leaves Gaza

Nov. 29, 2011 2:14 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 30, 2011 2:47 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- One truckload of strawberries left the Gaza Strip on Tuesday for export to Europe, crossings officials said.

Farmers in Gaza started to export limited amounts of produce to Europe via the Kerem Shalom crossing on Sunday, said crossings liaison officer Raed Fattouh.

The strawberries and carnations were the first produce to leave the coastal enclave in six months due to an Israeli ban on exports which has crippled the Gaza economy.

The agricultural goods are exported under an agreement between Israel and the Dutch government to allow five trucks of farm produce to leave Gaza each day.

The Israeli legal rights organization Gisha notes that if Israel fully implements the agreement, the exports represent just 1 percent of the exports Israel agreed to in 2005.

Under the 2005 agreement, Israel pledged to allow 400 trucks of Gaza produce to be exported every day.

"This exception to the ban is helpful for select growers, but it fails to address the manufacturing shut-down and massive unemployment caused by the export ban," Gisha said in a statement released Monday.

Before 2007, 85 percent of Gazan produce was sold to Israel or the West Bank, Gisha said, adding that exporting to Europe was expensive due to high shipping costs and low demand.

Gaza farmer Monthar al-Boudi told Gisha he exported 1,500 tons of strawberries annually before Israel banned exports from Gaza to Israel and the West Bank in 2007.

In 2010, al-Boudi was only allowed to sell seven tons of strawberries to Europe.

Gisha director Sari Bashi said: "It is not clear how preventing producers in Gaza from selling eggplants, school desks, and oranges to the West Bank enhances Israeli security, but the ban is clearly harming Palestinians trying to engage in productive, dignified work."
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