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Cablegate: Striking Gazans Again Close Karni/Al-Mintar

VZCZCXRO7985
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHJM #0585 0871601
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 281601Z MAR 07 ZDK
FM AMCONSUL JERUSALEM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7094
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY

UNCLAS JERUSALEM 000585

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

NEA FOR FRONT OFFICE; NEA/IPA FOR
WILLIAMS/SHAMPAINE/STEINGER; NSC FOR ABRAMS/DORAN/WATERS;
TREASURY FOR SZUBIN/LOEFFLER/NUGENT/HIRSON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EFIN PREL KWBG
SUBJECT: STRIKING GAZANS AGAIN CLOSE KARNI/AL-MINTAR
CROSSING; APPEAL TO THE US FOR HELP

REF: JERUSALEM 529

1. (SBU) Palestinian truckers and merchants closed the Gaza
side of Karni/al-Mintar crossing for several hours March 26
to protest continued restrictions on throughput at the
crossing, particularly for exports. The strikers displayed
banners calling on Secretary Rice to reactivate the AMA
agreement and to "honor her commitment" to facilitate exports
of Palestinian products from the Rafah crossing into Egypt.
They also demanded the closure of the "monopoly coordination
office", an end to "abusive practices" at commercial
crossings and the opening of a commerical terminal at Erez
crossing in northern Gaza. The crossing was closed by a
similar strike March 11-12 (see reftel).

2. (SBU) Karni/al-Mintar has remained opened on most
scheduled days of operaton since November 2006, after a
cease-fire agreement significantly reduced the number of
Qassam rockets fired against Israel. While the flow of goods
has increased in both directions, the level of Palestinian
exports remains far below estimated demand. According to
PalTrade, an average of about 50 truckloads per day have been
exported in recent weeks, up from fewer than 30 a day for
most of 2006. The World Bank estimates that a minimum of 150
truckloads of exports per day are needed to revitalize the
Gaza economy.

3. (SBU) With agricultural production season just past its
peak, recent exports from Gaza have been agricultural
products, such as flowers, strawberries, and vegetables,
purchased by Israel marketing companies for re-export to
European and other foreign markets. Although the export flow
is significantly improved over the same period last year,
when the crossing was closed repeatedly and for extended
periods, Gaza-based agribusinesses continue to complain that
demand is not being met. According to PalTrade, the number
of cut flowers allowed through the crossing between November
2006 and February 2007 constitutes 27 percent of production
normally available for export. The amount of strawberries
exported during the same period equaled about 63 percent.

4. (SBU) Comment: Palestinian frustrations with the
corruption, restricted throughput, and a general lack of
transparency at Karni/al-Mintar crossing will continue to
fester until significant changes are made to crossing
operations.

WALLES

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