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First Gaza export to West Bank in 5 years

March 6, 2012 12:51 P.M. (Updated: March 7, 2012 8:21 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- With two trucks of date bars, products made in Gaza reached the West Bank for the first time in five years on Monday.

The biscuits, destined for vulnerable children in the West Bank who receive food support from the UN World Food Program, are the first of 19 truckloads agreed by the Israeli authorities.

A rare exception to Israel's ban on Gazan exports to the West Bank, historically its main market, Israeli legal organization Gisha heralded the delivery as "an important step toward fulfilling the Israeli government's commitment to allow economic development for Palestinians living in Gaza."

But Gisha director Sari Bashi said it raised questions about the policy behind the export ban: "If marketing goods to the West Bank can be approved once, why can't it be allowed on a routine basis?"

The WFP had previously been forced to import date bars from Egypt or Turkey, but after six months of negotiation with Israeli authorities, the international agency was granted a permit to export from Gaza.

Increased production has already created 60 jobs at the factory in Gaza, and the WFP says it expects to inject more than $2 million into the Gaza economy as a result of the date bar project.

Gaza's economy has collapsed under an Israeli blockade that was tightened in 2007 after Hamas took power. Around 83 percent of Gaza's factories are idle or operating at less than half capacity, Gisha says.
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