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Israel opens Gaza crossing after nine years

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JERUSALEM: Israel opened a major crossing point between Israel and Gaza on Wednesday to allow the transfer of vehicles carrying goods for the first time in nine years, officials said.

An AFP photographer saw deliveries arriving through the Erez crossing at the entry to the Palestinian territory that has been under an Israeli blockade for a decade.

Erez has been restricted to individuals since 2007, with goods going through Kerem Shalom in southern Gaza.

Residents of the Israeli towns in the area had for months complained about the hundreds of trucks passing through the area daily, which caused heavy traffic and endangered motorists.

In May, then defence minister Moshe Yaalon said Erez would be opened in order to enable a better flow of goods into Gaza and ease congestion at Kerem Shalom.

A spokesman for COGAT, the defence ministry body responsible for implementing government policies in the Palestinian territories, confirmed vehicles had entered Gaza through the Erez crossing.

“This measure has been taken to facilitate the work of Palestinian importers and thus help the economy of the Gaza Strip,” the spokesman told AFP.

An association of Palestinian vehicle owners in Gaza said 110 vehicles arrived on their side through Erez.

Located in the northern Gaza Strip, Erez is nearer to major Israeli cities than Kerem Shalom and could make bringing goods from Israeli port cities such as Ashdod easier.

Israel has imposed its blockade on Gaza for a decade, saying it is necessary to prevent the Islamist movement Hamas, which runs the strip, from rebuilding its military forces and positions.

According to the World Bank and the UN, the blockade has killed virtually all exports from Gaza, as well as bringing the economy of the small enclave to the brink.

Wedged between Egypt, Israel and the Mediterranean, the Gaza Strip is home to about 1.9 million Palestinians.

 

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