The Hamas run Gaza authorities have informed Nahed Shahibar, the contractor who owns the franchisee that runs the Kerem Shalom border crossing station on the Arab side, that his contract has been revoked and transferred, as of Monday morning to one Muhisen Sharafi. As of Monday morning, as many as 70 trucks bringing goods into Gaza have been waiting on the Israeli side of the crossing, Ynet reported.
According to Arab estimates, some 400 truckloads of goods are expected to arrive this morning at the crossing, a much larger number than usual, due to the border closure in recent days.
Shahibar managed the crossing station on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, which is why Israel agreed over the years to cooperate with him. When Hamas took over control over the Gaza Strip, the Israeli government decided in principle not to work directly with any element of Hamas.
Over the past six days, the Kerem Shalom crossing has been closed to goods moving into Gaza, in retaliation for the rocket that was shot at the city of Ashkelon last week, and the Friday shooting at the moving vehicle of the northern division commander of the IDF Gaza Brigade.
Only yesterday, Sunday, Major General Eitan Dangot, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, announced that the Gaza crossing will open Monday morning, but now it appears that Hamas’s intention is to disrupt the return to normal activity.
It is estimated that the lack of consent by the Palestinian Authority to Hamas’s unilateral decision will cause the crossing to remain closed, as there are no authorized trucks and franchise owner on hand to receive the goods from the Israeli side.
It was the Palestinian crossings management office that informed Dangot about the Hamas, and he in return made it clear in conversations with senior PA officials that Israel considers the Hamas move a breach of the status quo and of the security arrangements regarding the operation of the border crossing.
Neither Israel nor the PA are willing to accept—each for its own reasons—a situation in which the Hamas government is operating the crossing and not the Palestinian Authority.
For Israel this would mean recognizing the legitimacy of the Hamas government, whose main declared goal is to destroy Israel. For the PA this would mean abandoning any remnant of an official foothold in the Gaza Strip.
However, according to Ynet, the Hamas motives have not been so much political or national, but rather financial. Their contract with the new franchise owner calls for a stiff fee of 170 shekels ($45) to be turned over to Hamas for each truck entering Gaza.
The main reason given for the increase is a reduction of government revenues from tax collection, after most of Gaza’s smuggling tunnels have been destroyed in recent weeks, the result of intense Egyptian actions. The Egyptian military has been flooding those tunnels with sewer water.
The blocking of the tunnels was intended mostly to prevent the passage of weapons into and out of Gaza, but a supposedly unintended consequence has been the blocking of gasoline and other vital merchandize from entering the Strip, causing a sharp rise in consumer prices.
Should Israel stick to its guns, the civilian population in Gaza may be enduring yet another period of hunger and poverty.