Gaza merchants urge Israel to release goods

By Doron Peskin, Ynet News – 26 Apr 2009,7340,L-3706562,00.html

Palestinian traders have had enough of seeing their merchandise rot in containers at Ashdod Port, call on international community to find urgent solution

While the smuggling of different goods through the tunnels of Rafah continues, merchandise purchased by Gaza’s merchants is being kept in storage facilities controlled by Israel. In some cases, the containers have been standing at the Ahsdod Port for about two years.

The Gazans have had enough, and last Monday the Strip’s merchants called on the international community to find an immediate solution for the cargo containers they claim are being held by Israel. The Gazan businessmen also demand to be compensated for the damage caused to their goods as a result of the Israeli move.

A statement released by the Strip’s Chamber of Commerce declared that the number of containers addressed to Gaza which were being held by Israel had reached 1,757. According to the Palestinians, the containers are mainly being kept at the Ashdod Port and in storage facilities controlled by Israel in the West Bank.

The Palestinians claim that Israel has been holding on to the cargo since 2007, according to the following breakdown: 978 containers from 2007, 715 from 2008 and 64 from 2009. The Palestinians estimate that the value of the goods held in Israel amounts to some $100 million. In some cases, the merchandise can no longer be used.

According to a calculation conducted by Gaza’s Chamber of Commerce, the direct damage suffered by the importers is estimated at some $10 million as a result of the taxes imposed on the goods by the port authorities, the containers’ rental price and the storage costs.

According to the statement, quoted by the Palestinian news agency, a Gazan importer pays some $300 a month for storage in one container. Therefore, the statement said, there are merchants who have already paid more than $6,000 for storing one container without the ability to release the merchandise and bring it to the Gaza markets.

The Palestinian merchants went on to say that due to the Israeli policy delaying the entry of goods into the Strip, they have lost franchises to market Arab and foreign goods due to the fact that they are unable to uphold the agreements they signed.

The statement also noted that the loss of franchises means that the Palestinian Authority is losing income from taxes.

Doron Peskin is head of research at Info-Prod Research (Middle East) Ltd

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