Ma'an News Agency
September 17, 2010 - 12:00am

The Palestinian Authority will take over the administration of the southernmost Gaza-Israel crossing "within the coming weeks," Palestinian Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein Ash-Sheikh told Ma'an Radio on Thursday.

The official said that 95 percent of the structural changes to the crossing had already been completed, and once they were done the hand-over would be made.

Kerem Shalom crossing, he said, "will be the main gate that will ease the siege on Gaza residents ... we will open the door widely and allow the export of products made in Gaza, it will also be the main entrance for imports ... our goal of ending the siege will be achieved."

Ash-Sheikh said the planned hand-over was achieved "after hard rounds of discussions to achieve Palestinian sovereignty over this crossing."

How much sovereignty the Palestinian Authority would have over the Israel-Gaza crossing was unclear, though an article published in the Israeli English-language daily The Jerusalem Post on Thursday quoted crossings officials saying that the plan was aimed at helping the PA "reestablish a presence in Gaza, even if minimal."

The official, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Major-General Eitan Dangot also had different ideas as to whether or not exports would be permitted from the area. The report cited the officer saying Israel "had also not ruled out allowing the Palestinians to export goods from Gaza."

Dangot explained the move as one that would let in the PA, and said the international community needed to "make sure to involve the PA in all the projects it is carrying out inside Gaza."

Hamas officials had not commented on the possibility of having the PA control the crossing, and possibly be the officials to enforce Israel's siege on Gaza.

The terms of siege were relaxed slightly in June, following international outcry against a lethal Israeli attack on an aid ship from Turkey, and additional consumer goods were permitted into the coastal enclave.

Monitoring organizations said commercial goods, still amounting to less than 40 percent of pre-siege levels, were insufficient to ameliorate the humanitarian situation there, and called for and end to the siege.

The current conditions prohibit the entry of construction materials to the private sector, leaving thousands whose homes were destroyed during Israel's December 2008 war on Gaza without access to repair and building materials. Industrial goods were also largely prohibited, keeping factories closed.

Rights groups have called for the opening of the crossings for exports, allowing Gaza's economy to recover.

PA control over Allenby?

During his interview, Ash-Sheikh also gave updates on PA attempts to gain further sovereignty on the West Bank-Jordan crossing, which remains under Israeli control. Palestinian travelers must pass Palestinian, Israeli and Jordanian security checks, while other passport holders only travel through the Israeli and Jordanian terminals.

The official said "rounds of meetings were held with the Israeli and Jordanians" over the issue of bringing cars through the terminal into Jordan for the 70 kilometer trip from Jerusalem to Amman, but Ash-Sheikh said "Israeli stubbornness prevented implementing this proposal despite Jordanian approval."

He said requests were ongoing to have the proposal re-evaluated by Israeli officials.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017