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Gazans hope for more as crossing opens for car deliveries

By AFP - Jul 14,2016 - Last updated at Jul 14,2016

A Palestinian Hamas security person inspects vehicles that came from Israel to serve the Gaza Strip market on Thursday in the Palestinian side of the Erez crossing with Israel (AFP photo)

GAZA CITY — Palestinians in Gaza were eyeing on Thursday the opening of a key crossing to cars for sale to see if it could signal a wider loosening of the blockade, though Israeli officials have downplayed the idea.

The Erez crossing point between Israel and Gaza, run by Hamas, was opened on Wednesday to allow the transfer of vehicles for sale for the first time in nine years.

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.

The move has been welcomed by car traders, who are hopeful more vehicles will be allowed through.

Ismail Al Nakhala, head of Gaza's Automobile Importers Association, said he was hopeful it was the beginning of "more cars and the entrance of other goods".

Maher Abu Al Ouf, an official with Gaza's ministry of civil affairs, said 54 trucks and buses entered on Thursday.

"We expect in the next phase other goods will be allowed in from Erez, including fruit and freezers, and that is a positive thing," he said.

COGAT, the defence ministry body responsible for implementing government policies in the Palestinian territories, did not reply to a request for comment, but on Wednesday downplayed the significance of the opening.

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

Residents of the Israeli towns near Kerem Shalom had for months complained about the hundreds of trucks passing through the area.

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.

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

The blockade has crippled the economy of the Strip and contributed to deteriorating conditions there, UN officials say.

 

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

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