Amid talk of truce, Israel said to allow tires into Gaza in first since 2018

Report says Israel will permit buses and boats to enter the coastal enclave, more strawberries to come out; Hamas denies it is holding discussions about truce

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

A man carries tires to be burnt as Palestinians prepare to demonstrate along the Gaza-Israel border, May 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO/MOHAMMED ABED_
A man carries tires to be burnt as Palestinians prepare to demonstrate along the Gaza-Israel border, May 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO/MOHAMMED ABED_

Israel has agreed to allow tires into the Gaza Strip starting on Monday, according to Sawa, a news site based in the coastal enclave, citing “well-placed sources.”

The report comes amid persistent talk of a truce deal shaping up between Israel and the Hamas terror group.

It also comes after the Palestinian committee responsible for organizing protests in the border region between Israel and the Gaza Strip announced last Thursday that demonstrations would take place less frequently in 2020.

Israel banned tires from going into Gaza shortly after the protests in the border region began on March 30, 2018, saying the embargo was in response to Palestinians setting them on fire at the protests to impair the vision of Israeli soldiers and other security personnel.

The shortage, however, has reportedly been felt more among motorists than among the protesters. After Israel instituted the ban, some shipments of tires entered Gaza through Egypt’s border with the territory.

The Al-Quds daily also reported that Israel would allow tires to be imported into Gaza, citing “informed Palestinian sources.”

Palestinians burn tires during a demonstration near the fence along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on February 22, 2019.(Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

Palestinian Authority Transportation Ministry spokesman Musa Rahal said he was not aware that Israel was planning to permit the entry of tires into Gaza.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the Defense Ministry body responsible for liaising with the Palestinians, did not respond to a request for comment.

The Sawa report also said Israel agreed to allow buses and boats into Gaza.

Rahal said he was not privy to such information, while Nizar Ayyash, the head of the Fishermen’s Union, said he was not aware of boats arriving in Gaza.

The Al-Quds report made no mention of Israel allowing new boats into Gaza, but it quoted its Palestinian sources as saying Israeli authorities had agreed to permit fiberglass used to build and repair boats to enter the territory as well as steel cables and “special equipment for fishing and boats.”

Israel considers fiberglass and steel cables to be “dual-use” items, Miriam Marmur, a spokeswoman for Gisha said.

For the past several years, Israel has heavily restricted the entry of products that it labels dual-use — items that it believes can be utilized for both civilian and military purposes — into Gaza. Palestinians in the Strip have long been required to receive special permits to import goods that Israel categorizes as dual-use.

Israel maintains many restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza. Israel officials maintain that the limitations seek to prevent terror groups in the coastal enclave from importing weapons or the means to build them.

For most of the last decade, Egypt also imposed heavy restrictions on the movement of people and goods. More recently, however, Egyptian authorities have permitted many Palestinians in Gaza to travel through the Rafah crossing and import some goods by way of its border.

The Sawa report also said Israel will allow the export of agricultural products including 600 tons of strawberries to Israel. It also quoted its sources as saying that authorities consented to Palestinians in Gaza purchasing special chemical fertilizers.

COGAT announced it mid-December that it had coordinated the export of strawberries to the UK and Persian Gulf countries, but it made no mention of such shipments to the Israeli market.

Left to right: Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, Foreign Minister Israel Katz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cabinet Secretary Tzachi Braverman attend the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on December 22, 2019. (Tsafrir Abayov/Pool/AFP)

The sources quoted by Al-Quds appeared to indicate that Israel agreed to allow for tires to enter Gaza on a continuous basis. Sawa and al-Quds, however, did not clarify whether Israel planned to allow for the import and export of the other various items mentioned in their reports on a one time or ongoing basis.

The Hamas terror group,which controls Gaza, denied in a statement on Monday that it was holding any discussions with Israel about a “truce.”

Its statement came after Channel 12 ran an unsourced report that Meir Ben-Shabbat, the head of the National Security Council, presented to the high-level security cabinet a proposal for a deal with Hamas.

The report said that the proposed deal would include Israel increasing the number of permits for Palestinian businesspeople in Gaza to enter the Jewish state; expanding the fishing zone off of Gaza’s coast; advancing the construction of a natural gas pipeline; and increasing medical aid and equipment for hospitals. The report also said permitting Palestinians in Gaza to work in Israel was under consideration, but is facing opposition from the Shin Bet security service.

The report added that Hamas, in exchange, would increase its efforts to stop rocket fire from Gaza and rein in border protests.

For over a year, Egypt and other international parties have brokered various informal ceasefire understandings between Israel and terror groups in Gaza, including Hamas.

The understandings have largely entailed Israel lifting restrictions on the movement of goods and people into and out of Gaza, in exchange for Hamas maintaining relative quiet in the border region between the coastal enclave and the Jewish state.

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