Gazan traders given green-light to purchase food from Israel, West Bank for first time since Oct. 7

Palestinians from around the Gaza Strip shopping at a market in Deir al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip, on May 23, 2024. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Palestinians from around the Gaza Strip shopping at a market in Deir al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip, on May 23, 2024. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The Israeli military has lifted a ban on the sale of food to Gaza from Israel and the West Bank as its battlefield offensive chokes international aid, according to Palestinian officials, businessmen and international aid workers.

Army authorities gave Gazan traders the green light to resume their purchases from Israeli and Palestinian suppliers of food such as fresh fruit, vegetables and dairy goods this month, days after Israeli forces launched an offensive against Hamas’s remaining battalions in the enclave’s southernmost city of Rafah, the people say.

“Israel phoned Gazan distributors who had been purchasing goods from the West Bank and Israel before the war,” says Ayed Abu Ramadan, chair of the Gaza Chamber of Commerce. “It told them it was ready to coordinate the pick-up of goods.”

Reuters, which interviewed more than a dozen people familiar with the development, is the first news outlet to report on the details and impact of this resumption of commercial food deliveries bound for sale in Gazan markets and stores.

The shift marks the first time any goods produced inside Israel or the West Bank have been allowed into Gaza since the October 7 Hamas terror onslaught in southern Israel and the subsequent war in Gaza, according to the Palestinian officials, traders and residents.

Asked by Reuters about the resumption of deliveries, COGAT, the branch of the Israeli military responsible for aid transfers, says it is looking at ways to boost humanitarian aid and increase the amount of food for sale in Gaza.

“Allowing for the private sector to bring some food into the Gaza Strip is part of those efforts to increase the amount of food that’s coming in,” spokesperson Shimon Freedman adds.

The food coming in is also expensive, however. Three Gazan residents interviewed say that while they have seen Hebrew-labelled produce in markets, including watermelons from an Israeli settlement, it was often being sold at prices too high for cash-strapped and displaced families.

“I bought two eggs for 16 shekels [$5], just because my kid, three years old, cried for eggs,” says Abed Abu Mustafa, a father-of-five in Gaza City.

“Normally, I could have bought 30 eggs for less.”

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