As a result of the Israeli closing of the Karni crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip since February 12, Palestinian greenhouse owners in Gaza have incurred $450,000 in damages a day, with cumulative damage of $4.4 million, according to a report released Wednesday by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The report warns of "financial catastrophe" for the Palestinian Economic Development (PED) Company that owns the greenhouses.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and coordinator James Wolfensohn, had promised at the formation of the company and the acquisition of the Gush Katif greenhouses that the Karni crossing would be open regularly for the passage of goods, but this promise has not been kept by Israeli forces who control the border.
According to the report, the company had to destroy 32 tons of peppers, 130 tons of cherry tomatoes, 33 tons of tomatoes, 85 tons of cucumbers and four tons of beans; and added that last week, 85 trucks loaded with 450 tons of agricultural produce arrived at the Karni crossing, but were forced to return. The company had to destroy all the produce that the trucks were transporting last week, plus 70 tons of fresh vegetables.
The report’s authors note that the closure of the crossing came at the worst possible time – the height of the tomato, cucumber and pepper season as well as at the height of the season in Europe, when it is possible to get high prices for produce from the Gaza Strip. Instead of that happening, the vegetables are rotting in the hothouses and are thrown out.
In addition, the closing of the crossing did not allow for pesticides and other agricultural equipment to be brought in. The report stated that the closing of the crossing during this marketing season would lead to economic disaster for all produce in Gaza and the loss of an important source of income for residents of the area.
Fisherman have also faced a tight squeeze due to Israeli security forces controlling where and when they can fish, creating an arbitrary ‘line in the sea’, and enforcing it at will, firing at fishermen when they enter the sea to fish out of their small boats.
Director of the marine department in the agriculture Ministry, Mr. Tariq Saqer, said that fishing contributes 2% to the Palestinian national income, although it previously contributed much more.
Now, due to Israeli naval forces firing arbitrarily at fishermen, they are afraid to venture outside of a two-square mile area of coast, a tiny patch that is completely insufficient to provide the fish necessary to maintain their livelihood.
The United Nations and various human rights groups have condemned the Israeli closure and economic and military control of the Gaza Strip, saying that the current closure is causing a severe food crisis in Gaza.