Israel outlines easing of economic measures on Palestinians

Jerusalem (CNN) -- The general in charge of the Israeli government's program to ease the economic blockade of Gaza, cited major progress Tuesday, saying the flow of goods into Gaza has increased many fold.

That message given by Major Gen. Eitan Dangot, the coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories, the Israeli army section responsible for handling Palestinian civilian affairs in the West Bank and Gaza.

Speaking at a news conference, he detailed how presently 180 to 200 double container trucks are entering Gaza daily compared with about 80 to 90 such trucks before the June decision.

He estimated that soon the capacity at the Kerem Shalom crossing point will reach 300 trucks per day. But he also sounded a note of concern regarding the recent upswing of rockets and mortars fired into Israel by Palestinian militants from inside Gaza. "In the last weeks we are facing launching of rockets and mortar shells around Gaza, all over from the north to the south at Kerem Shalom," he said.

He said that this put the lives of those handling the transfer of material into Gaza in danger.

The general explained that all goods going into Gaza are coordinated with the Palestinian Authority, which is situated in the West Bank, even maintaining what he called a "24 hour hot line" with Palestinian officials in Ramallah. Looking toward the coming year, he said he planned to increase the capacity of trucks going into Gaza to 400.

The increase in materials entering Gaza supports 78 projects that are being implemented by the international community. Twenty-two projects are in education, 16 are water and sewage works, 10 agricultural and others in the field of housing, health and electricity.

There has also been an increase of business people allowed to travel out of Gaza to conduct business in the West Bank and Israel in order to promote economic growth. Daily about 60 to 80 such people travel out of Gaza. However when the general was asked about allowing unrestricted freedom of movement to go in and out of Gaza for its population, he made clear that Israeli security concerns would rule on that matter.

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