Gaza truck drivers strike to protest Israel’s closing of Karni crossing 22Mar11 March 23, 2011

The Alternative Information Centre -  22 March 2011


Truck drivers in the Gaza Strip declared a strike to protest Israel’s closing of the Karni crossing, previously the main passage for goods into Gaza. Although drivers have currently suspended their strike, they demand to know the “real reasons” for closure of the crossing, which further exacerbates the problems caused by the Israeli siege.

Residents of the Gaza Strip continue to suffer from the serious siege imposed by Israel since June 2007. In February the Karni Crossing, the primary passage for goods into the Gaza Strip, was open only 11 days and on 2 March Israel declared the permanent closing of the crossing. With closing of the Karni crossing there remains only one crossing for goods between Israel and Gaza: Kerem Shalom, in the southern Gaza Strip.

In response to the closure of Karni, Gaza truck drivers commenced a strike on 6 March. The drivers demand that Israel reopen the Karni crossing, and that the Palestinian Authority revoke its agreement to Israel’s move. The drivers refused to transfer goods through Kerem Shalom. The reason for their protest is the distance of Kerem Shalom from population centres in north Gaza and the terrible roads leading to and from Kerem Shalom, roads that have resulted in numerous accidents in the past. Additionally, the small Kerem Shalom crossing is insufficient for the extent of goods required by the residents of Gaza. All of this increases the costs of transportation. According to spokesperson for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Chris Gunness, the closing of Karni resulted in an increase of 20% in the cost of transporting aid to Gaza. An increase in food costs is already being felt in Gaza.

Secretary of the Transportation Workers Union, Jihad Islam, relates that the government in Gaza demanded that the striking drivers dismantle their protest tent and return to work. Islam says that “we demand the establishment of an investigative committee, we want to know the real reasons for the closing of Karni.”

On 11 March the drivers decided to suspend their strike for two weeks, and in recent days Kerem Shalom has been open for limited passage of building material intended for projects of USAID and UNRWA. These projects have been suspended since 2007, pending receipt of building materials, and they still lack some 70,000 tons of building materials. Also allowed passage this month were flowers for export, grown in the framework of a Dutch government programme to assist Gaza farmers.

According to statistics from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Israel permits an average of 100 trucks to enter Gaza daily. Although this number represents an improvement in the situation from one year ago, it is still only some 20% of the goods that used to enter Gaza prior to the worsening of the siege in June 2007. Moreover, this is a violation of the passage agreements signed in 2005, in which Israel committed itself to allowing the passage of 400 trucks daily through the Karni Crossing.

Moreover, the products entering Gaza still include only processed goods and raw materials for the projects of aid agencies. This situation perpetuates the dependence of Gaza residents on Israel and international agencies, and prevents development of an independent economy in Gaza.

Translated to English by the Alternative Information Center (AIC).


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