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Gaza, Israel officials meet at Erez crossing

Oct. 6, 2012 2:29 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 8, 2012 12:04 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- A meeting was held recently at Erez crossing between Palestinian officials from the Hamas-run government and Israeli officials, Ma'an has learned.

Khalil Faraj, an official in the ministry of civil affairs in Gaza, met with the head of the economics branch at the Gaza District Coordination and Liaison offices, Lt.-Col. Avi Shalev.

Representatives of the union of Palestinian contractors attended the meeting along with officials from Palestinian banks and the transportation sector. On the Israeli side, the meeting was attended by the southern command chief Tal Russo and his deputy, a Ma'an reporter said.

The Palestinian side requested that Israel allow a Qatari project to reconstruct the Gaza Strip just like other projects funded by international organizations in the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s southern command chief replied that the Palestinian Authority should submit an official application to the Israeli side who will study the application “positively” and determine the mechanism to allow entry of construction material for the Qatari projects.

The union of Palestinian contractors is playing a major role liaising between officials in Ramallah, the Gaza Strip and the Israeli side in order to secure good circumstances to implement the Qatari projects in Gaza.

Gaza officials also requested that Israel ease its entry procedures for the many Palestinian families whose members are distributed between the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Israel.

They have asked the Israeli side to issue entry permits for Gaza students who are enrolled in West Bank universities, and to issue more permits for Gazan merchants to enter Israel.

The head of the union of Palestinian contractors, Osama Kheil, asked the Israeli side to allow the entry of basic construction materials into the Gaza Strip.

He said cement, iron bars, gravel and other equipment needed for the reconstruction of the war-torn territory should be allowed just as they are allowed for internationally sponsored projects. He highlighted that contractors who implement the projects could face losses as a result of the rarity of construction material.

The equipment they use, he added, has become too old-fashioned and even endangers the workers, so modern equipment is also needed in Gaza.

A representative of the ministry of transportation in Gaza, Jibreel Talbani, addressed obstacles Israel imposes on the entry of heavy equipment, agricultural equipment, buses and car parts.

Alaa Radwan spoke on behalf of Palestinian banks explaining the suffering both the banks and the citizens face as a result of Israeli restrictions. He highlighted that Israel bans direct money transfer between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

This, he said, harms everybody as it encourages the black market. “There are tens of thousands of worn bank notes exchanged in the Gaza Strip and should be changed.”

For his part, Russo said the Israeli side understood the Palestinian demands and would approve as many of them as long as that did not conflict with “security”.

He promised that the Israeli side would study all the demands carefully and make their best effort to secure a normal life for the Gaza Strip's residents.

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