GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Israel on Monday allowed Gaza fishermen to export their catch to the West Bank for the first time since 2007.
The shipment of more than 730 kilograms of fish marked a symbolic easing of a longstanding Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip. Israel, which imposed the blockade along with Egypt to isolate Hamas after it seized power in Gaza, agreed to loosen the restrictions after a 50-day war against the Islamic militant group over the summer.
Adel Attallah, of the Palestinian Agriculture Ministry, said the shipment was meant to "test the Israeli intentions."
"We will not open the door for export freely," he said.
The move came a day after Israel let 16 tons of cucumber pass from Gaza to the West Bank, also for the first time in years. Gaza used to ship up to 1,200 tons of fish to the West Bank each year before the blockade. Following the war, Israel agreed to double a permitted fishing zone for Gazans up to six nautical miles.
Attalah said the produce is 60 percent less than the 4,000 tons of fish caught annually when fishermen were able to reach up to 12 miles.
Gaza fishmonger Munir Abu Hassira and his business partner were the only two merchants approved to ship to Palestinians in the West Bank. On Sunday, he bought 350 kilograms of shrimp, crab and red grouper and began sorting and packaging them, storing them in a refrigerator in preparation for shipping them the next day.
One of his workers placed a sticker on the crates reading "Fresh fish, a Palestinian product from Gaza," before starting to load them onto the truck.
"This is what I could find from the fishermen," he said. "In the West Bank, they love sea bass and red mullet as well, but they did not catch enough of them today."