Gaza truck drivers protest economic crisis at border crossing
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Gaza truck drivers protest economic crisis at border crossing

Local businesses shutter Kerem Shalom crossing in day-long demonstration, say Fatah-Hamas reconciliation could ease dire conditions

Illustrative: A Palestinian truck loaded with supplies entered the southern Gaza Strip from Israel through the Kerem Shalom crossing in Rafah, on November 1, 2017. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)
Illustrative: A Palestinian truck loaded with supplies entered the southern Gaza Strip from Israel through the Kerem Shalom crossing in Rafah, on November 1, 2017. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)

Dozens of truck drivers prevented goods from entering the Gaza Strip from Israel on Tuesday in a day-long protest at the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian enclave.

The trucks belonging to Gazan businesses blocked the roads near the Kerem Shalom crossing into Israel, the main entry point for imports into Gaza, in a protest organized by private sector associations.

Nahed Shuhibar, head of the Gaza’s Private Transport Association, said more than 50 trucks were being used in the protest.

“Our message is that we have children and families who want to live,” he said.

Around 150 protesters took part in the demonstration. Many held signs condemning Israel and calling for reconciliation between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah, which many hope could help ease conditions in Gaza.

Palestinians collect food aid at a United Nations food distribution center in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on January 28, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Gaza suffers from around 40 percent unemployment and more than two-thirds of its two million residents rely on international aid, according to the United Nations.

Many Gazan households are supplied with just four to six hours of electricity a day, and are forced to drink bottled water because the Strip’s water infrastructure is in the advanced stages of collapse.

Monthly salaries for those who do have jobs are low on average — NIS 1,600 (a little over $400), compared to NIS 2,000 ($550) in the West Bank.

The UN’s envoy for the Middle East peace process warned last week that the enclave was on the verge of “full collapse.”

Israel has maintained a blockade on Gaza for over, a decade, which it says is necessary to prevent the Hamas terror group, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, from smuggling in weapons and material used for digging tunnels into Israel.

Palestinian children hold bread patties during a protest against aid cuts, outside the United Nations’ offices in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on January 28, 2018. (SAID KHATIB/AFP)

Egypt has also largely sealed its border with Gaza in recent years.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s secular Fatah party, based in the West Bank, and Gaza’s Hamas rulers agreed a reconciliation deal in October, but its implementation has faltered.

The economic prospects of Gazans took a further turn for the worse last month when the United States withheld $110 million from the UN relief agency for Palestinians (UNRWA), arguing that the organization needed a “fundamental re-examination.”

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