Gaza Strip exports to Israel resumed Sunday, Palestinian and Israeli officials said, days after exports were suspended following an alleged attempt to smuggle explosives from the coastal enclave.
On Monday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi ordered a halt to commercial deliveries from Gaza to Israel after several kilograms of “high-quality” explosive material were found hidden in a shipment of clothes. The move was approved by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.
On Sunday morning, exports were once again allowed through the Kerem Shalom gateway, said Raed Fattouh, head of the Presidential Committee for the Coordination of Goods, which is affiliated with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party.
“Several trucks, including one loaded with readymade clothes and others loaded with scrap iron, entered the crossing this morning and headed toward the Israeli side,” he told AFP.
According to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the body that runs civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories, exports were allowed into Israel on Sunday at 6 a.m. “following the conclusion of a security assessment.”
“The defense establishment will not allow terror elements to take advantage of the civilian and humanitarian channel in the Gaza Strip for the needs of military force buildup and acts of terror,” the ministry and COGAT said.
The Defense Ministry said that according to initial assessments, the explosives were intended to be used for terror activity in the West Bank.
Palestinian businesses had warned that shutting the crossing would trigger a “humanitarian catastrophe” in the Gaza Strip.
The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli-led blockade since the Hamas seized power from the Palestinian Authority in a bloody coup in 2007. Israel says the blockade, which is also enforced by neighboring Egypt, is needed to prevent the terror group, which openly seeks Israel’s destruction and has fired thousands of rockets at Israeli cities, from arming.
The Kerem Shalom crossing is the only point of entry for goods between the Gaza Strip and Israel.
The Israeli suspension came with tensions raging across the region amid a string of Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank that have left 27 civilians and three soldiers dead and several others seriously wounded since the beginning of the year.
According to a tally by The Times of Israel, 180 West Bank Palestinians have been killed during the same period — most of them during clashes with security forces or while carrying out attacks, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under unclear circumstances, including by armed Israeli settlers.
Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, Australia, Britain, Israel and the European Union.