November 7, 2018. Kerem Shalom Crossing was closed to transport of goods, other than fuel, on Monday and part of Tuesday, November 5-6. Gaza truck drivers and trucking companies staged a protest against the Palestinian Authority’s decision to impose a 30-shekel (ILS) tax on each truck passing through the crossing. These charges come on top of fees that transporters already pay to crossing operators on the Israeli and Palestinian sides of the crossing, which reach up to 1,200 ILS per truck. Palestinian Authority officials denied entry to the drivers until the new fees were paid. Traffic resumed when the delays and goods held up at the crossing became financially unbearable and compelled the protestors to give in to the new demand.
On Monday, approximately 600 trucks were meant to transit at Kerem Shalom. On Tuesday, rain was reported to have damaged goods sitting at the crossing, also driving the protestors to forfeit their demand to reverse the tax. Trucks carrying Qatari-funded diesel destined for the power plant were exempted from the new fee and trucks carrying fuel for the private market also entered, as gas station owners were prepared to pay the extra levies.
Most of the trucks carrying goods out of Gaza managed to enter the crossing on Monday before the protest began and were unaffected. On Tuesdays, exit of agricultural produce to the West Bank is not permitted in any case; given that the majority of goods exiting Gaza tend to be produce destined for the West Bank, it is expected that the closure on Tuesday did not have an extensive impact on exit of goods.
Hamas authorities previously collected the tax that sparked the protests. When the PA resumed full control over the Palestinian side of the crossings in November 2017, the tax was revoked.
Currently, each truck exiting the Gaza Strip is charged fees according to size: 500 ILS is paid to the company operating at the crossing that loads and unloads the truck’s goods (into and out of the sterile area between the Palestinian and Israeli sides). Additionally, up to 700 ILS is paid to the Israeli Ministry of Defense for every truck entering the Israeli side. Altogether, each truckload results in fees reaching up to 1,200 ILS on top of shipping costs inside Gaza and on the Israeli side. The cost for shipping one truckload of goods can reach up to some 5,300 ILS.
Shipping costs and fees are a great burden on Gaza’s fragile economy. Businesspeople have shared with Gisha that these charges form one of the most significant obstacles to the growth of the export market, along with Israeli-imposed restrictions on the movement of goods and people.