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Israel allows Gaza-West Bank exports for first time in five years

Israel says it has allowed goods from Gaza to be exported to the West Bank for the first time since Islamist group Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007.

Gaza blockade 2012 03 06Enlarge
Before Hamas' take-over of the Gaza Strip in 2007, the territory’s exports totalled 86 truckloads a day on average, with more than 85 percent of its products going to the West Bank. (CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP/Getty Images)

Israel says it has allowed goods from Gaza to be exported to the West Bank for the first time in five years.

The transfer of 13 truckloads of date bars over the next few days has been authorized by the military, as part of a World Food Program project that provides school meals to Palestinian children in the West Bank.

The first lorries carrying the snack bars left Gaza on Monday and brought them to the West Bank via Israel, according to the Agence France Presse.

However, Israel has stressed that the move is a “one-off pilot project,” and does not signal an end to the ban on Gaza exports to markets in Israel and the West Bank imposed in June 2007.

“After looking at all the security considerations we decided to authorize this specific project. It’s not a new policy regarding exports from Gaza to the West Bank,” said Guy Inbar, a spokesman for COGAT, the division of the Israeli military responsible for coordinating access to and from the Gaza Strip, according to the BBC.

“It’s a gesture after a request from the World Food Program and the Palestinian Authority. We will be monitoring to see what happens,” he added.

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Israel first imposed a blockade on Gaza in June 2006 after Palestinian militants captured soldier Gilad Shalit in a cross-border raid.

The blockade was tightened a year later after the Islamist group Hamas seized control of the territory, ousting forces loyal to the Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas, Ynet News reports.

Before the 2007 coup, Gaza’s exports totalled 86 truckloads a day on average, with more than 85 percent of its products going to the West Bank.

Since the beginning of 2012, Israel has allowed Gaza to export an average of two truckloads a day, but only to markets abroad, meaning Palestinians must pay high transportation costs to reach overseas markets where demand for Gaza’s products is low, according to Haaretz.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/israel-and-palestine/120306/israel-allows-gaza-west-bank-exports