For the first time since late March 2018, Israel allowed tires to enter the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, the Palestinian Authority said.
Israel banned tires from going into the Strip shortly after protests in the border area between the Jewish state and the coastal enclave began on March 30, 2018.
A shipment of 5,000 tires entered Gaza on Wednesday, PA Transportation Minister Asem Salem said, according to the official PA news site Wafa.
Israeli authorities have said Israel had placed an embargo on the entry of tires into Gaza in response to Palestinians setting them on fire at protests in the border region, which they said aimed to impair the vision of Israeli soldiers and other security personnel.
In late December, the Palestinian committee responsible for organizing the protests announced that demonstrations would take place less frequently in 2020.
On December 29, the Gaza-based Palestinian news site Sawa, citing unnamed “well-placed” sources, reported Israel would allow tires into Gaza starting on December 30, but they ultimately did not on that date.
Musa Rahal, spokesman for the PA transportation ministry, said on Wednesday that another shipment of 500 tires would enter Gaza next week. He also noted that the tires that went into the Strip on Wednesday as well as those slated to be delivered next week have been sitting in storage at an Israeli port since April 2018.
“From now on, we expect the situation to return to normal, in which traders can regularly import tires,” he told The Times of Israel.
A spokeswoman for Gisha, an Israeli human rights group that tracks the movement of goods and people into and out of Gaza, said the ban had created a safety hazard for motorists in the territory.
“Israel’s restrictions on the entry of tires forced persons to purchase tires of a lower quality,” Miriam Marmur said, stating that the ban also caused their price to rise significantly.
Since September 2018, Egypt has allowed for tires to enter Gaza through the border it shares with the coastal enclave. But the amount of tires imported from Egypt to Gaza has not met demand in the territory, Marmur said.
The cost of tires from Egypt has stood at a price in Gaza five times greater than in Egyptian territory, according to Marmur.
Israel maintains many restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza. Israeli officials maintain that the limitations seek to prevent terror groups there from importing weapons or the means to build them.
The Hamas terror group has controlled Gaza since 2007 when it ousted the Fatah-dominated PA from the territory.
For most of the last decade, Egypt has also imposed heavy restrictions on the movement of people and goods. More recently, however, Egyptian authorities have permitted Palestinians in Gaza to travel through the Rafah crossing and import some goods by way of its border.