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Israel-Gaza goods crossing stays shut for seventh day

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Israel's sole crossing for goods traffic into the Gaza Strip remained shut on Monday, 24-hours after Israel said it would end a week-long closure.

Israel said the holdup was because of attempts by the strip's militant Hamas rulers to introduce procedural changes and divert customs revenues earmarked for their rivals, the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.

"Over 70 trucks laden with food and other goods are currently waiting on the Israeli side of the Kerem Shalom crossing for their Palestinian counterparts," an Israeli defence ministry statement said.

"The Palestinian contractor responsible for the Palestinian side decided not to open the crossing today," it added. "His decision stems from attempts by Hamas to replace the current contractor with one of their choosing."

"Hamas has been actively trying to push the Palestinian Authority out and take charge of the management of Kerem Shalom so that they may collect revenue from goods that enter Gaza," it said.

"Israel cannot allow the operation of the crossing under such circumstances given the security risks."

A Palestinian source at the crossing said that Hamas was seeking to impose new duties on the import of goods into its territory.

"The Hamas government refused access to hundreds of trucks loaded with goods and aid to the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom terminal because it wants to impose new charges on the haulage company," the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Hamas said that the problem was due Israel's refusal to lower its fees for use of the crossing.

A statement from the Hamas economy ministry released by government news agency Al-Rai said that movement of goods was expected to resume on Tuesday.

Israel shut down operations at the crossing and also cut pedestrian access to Israel through the Erez crossing after a rocket from Gaza struck southern Israel last Tuesday.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130304/israel-gaza-goods-crossing-stays-shut-seventh-day