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Israel’s steps to ease Gaza blockade point to longer-term truce

Israeli authorities are taking steps to ease the blockade of the Gaza Strip in the context of indirect talks with Hamas over a longer-term truce, reported Al-Monitor.

In one example, Israel has allowed the export of produce, “bound for the Gulf, European and Israeli markets”, via the Kerem Shalom crossing “for the first time in more than a decade”.

In addition, citing reports on 29 December, the article notes that Israel is allowing “some dual-use materials into Gaza”.

While Hamas has denied any formal contacts with Israel regarding a longer-term calm, an unnamed Hamas official told Al-Monitor that Great Return Marches have been officially suspended in order to avoid casualties and friction with the Israeli army “independent of any future truce agreement”.

The source added: “The economic incentives that Israel is trying to promote for the Gaza Strip do not meet the Palestinian demands that were submitted to the mediators over the past two years.”

The three-month suspension of weekly demonstrations will last until March, after which “protests will only be held once a month and on national occasions”.

Al-Monitor spoke to a number of individuals in charge of various economic sectors in Gaza, who relayed incrementally positive developments.

Nizar Ayyash, head of the Palestinian Fishermen’s Association in Gaza, told the site that fishermen have experienced a “significant reduction” in Israeli harassment since mid-November.

Meanwhile, Tarzan Daghmash, spokesperson for the Union of Automobile Tires Companies in Gaza, said Israel will be lifting a ban on the entry of automobile tyres.

Wael Al-Wadiya, director of the Sarayo Alwadiya Group, which produces food products, told Al-Monitor: “This is the first time that Israel has allowed us to export our products since 2007.” On 30 December, the company exported eight tonnes of sweets to Bahrain.

On 31 December, Ali Al-Hayek, head of the Palestinian Businessmen Association in Gaza, “predicted that if Israel continues with the current approach Gaza could move toward economic recovery in 2020 and improve the living conditions of residents.”

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