Israel to Allow Cars into Gaza for First Time since 2007

Israeli authorities were to allow some 20 cars to be transported into Gaza on Monday, the first such shipment in more than three years, the military said. The decision to allow some 20 passenger vehicles to enter was taken in June amid international outrage over the deadly seizure of a Gaza-bound aid fleet but was held up by red tape and rocket attacks, a spokesman said.

Major Guy Inbar of the military’s Gaza liaison office said there had been “several problems” in coordinating the shipment with the Western-backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, without providing further details. The delivery was also held up by near-daily rocket and mortar attacks last week, he added.

The cars were to be loaded from 0700 GMT and delivered between 0900 and 1000 GMT. Israel and Egypt shut down Gaza’s border crossings after Palestinian militants captured an Israeli soldier in June 2006 and tightened the blockade a year later when the Islamic Hamas movement seized power.

Since then Israel has coordinated all imports into Gaza with the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, which has been confined to the occupied West Bank since its forces were ousted from Gaza. In June, Israel eased the blockade to allow in all purely civilian goods as international outrage soared over the May 31 seizure of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in which Israeli commandos shot dead nine Turkish activists.

However, it has kept a complete naval blockade in place and only allows in desperately needed construction materials for projects supervised by international organisations. An official at the International Monetary Fund said earlier this month that the Gaza economy had grown 16 percent since the easing, but cautioned that the rate was measured against a “very low base.”

Unemployment has remained at 35 percent, one of the highest rates in the world, and four out of five of the territory’s 1.5 million residents rely on foreign aid.