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Israel allows Gaza to export clothes after 5-year ban

May 14, 2012 8:30 P.M. (Updated: May 20, 2012 9:50 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Reuters) -- Israel allowed on Monday the export of Palestinian-made clothes from the Gaza Strip for the first time in at least five years, a Palestinian official said.

Raed Fattouh, who coordinates supplies into Gaza, said a truck carrying 2,000 pieces of mainly woolen garments were exported through the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing towards an Israeli seaport en route to Britain.

Gaza's Ashour knitwear company, which was rebuilt with UK aid after it closed in 2007, will export the goods to Britain's J.D. Williams clothes outlet, a UK official said.

Home to 1.7 million people, Gaza has been under tight embargo by both Israel and Egypt since Hamas took control of the coastal enclave in 2007.

Under international pressure, Israel eased import curbs in 2010, but for the most part businesses cannot export.

UK Development Minister Alan Duncan said while he welcomed the export project, "it is my hope that we quickly reach a stage where there is no longer a need for such assistance, because sustained exports from Gaza will be the norm."

The rare export came after a British parliamentarian, Lord Andrew Stone, visited the Gaza Strip in June 2011, a statement from the UK Consulate in Jerusalem said.

There was no indication of when the next shipment of clothing would be let out of Gaza and Fattouh said merchants were still awaiting an Israeli agreement to let them begin exporting furniture.

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, the biggest party in the new Egyptian parliament, has said it aims to open the border with Gaza to commerce.

Former president Hosni Mubarak signed up to Gaza blockade partly because of his own hostility towards Hamas, an ideological cousin of the Brotherhood group that was banned under his rule.
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