(Communicated by the IDF Spokesperson)

Today, June, 1, 2004 the opening of the Karni crossing for the transfer of merchandise from Gaza Strip into Israel was completed.

The preparation for the opening of the crossing began several days ago, but in light of security assessments it was decided not to allow movement of merchandise from the Gaza Strip into Israel.

The crossing was opened, with necessary security measures and restrictions, despite alerts of terrorist organizations intending to take advantage of the crossing to carry out terror attacks.

It should be noted that the terrorists who carried out the attack in the Ashdod port on March 2004 came from the Gaza Strip via the Karni crossing. In addition, two explosive belts hidden among clothing inside luggage were uncovered over the past months.

Since the Palestinian security system do not do enough in order to prevent the use of the Karni crossing for terror attacks by terror organizations, the IDF and the security forces are required to carry out stricter security checks at the crossing of the merchandise destined for Israel.

It should be noted that the transfer of merchandise from Israel into the Gaza Strip was allowed during the preparation period, but the PA refused to receive merchandise unless they were allowed to export merchandise to Israel.


Background Information
(Communicated by Israeli security sources)

The Karni crossing, located near Gaza City, is used for the transfer of goods between the Gaza Strip and Israel. An average of 700-800 trucks pass through the crossing every day.

As opposed to this activity, the Karni crossing and its neighboring industrial zone have been frequent targets for terror attacks carried out by Palestinian terrorist organizations.

In 1996, the Islamic Jihad took advantage of the transfer method at the crossing to smuggle a suicide bomber along with an explosive suitcase hidden in a truck delivering goods through the crossing. The suicide bomber carried out his attack on Dizengoff Street in Tel- Aviv, murdering 13 Israelis and injuring 125. Following this attack, the regulations for security checks in the Karni crossing changed.

Today, the transfer of merchandise at the Karni crossing is carried out using the "back to back" system, in which Palestinian and Israeli trucks deliver the merchandise simultaneously.

The Karni area, like the Erez industrial area, has been the scene of dozens of different attacks, including shootings, explosive charges and rocket attacks since September 2000. One of the significant attacks was carried out in April 2003, when a terrorist opened fire and activated explosives at the crossing itself, killing two civilians and injuring three.

The terrorist organizations also use the trucks delivering merchandise to the Gaza Strip to smuggle weapons:

* In two different incidents, in April 2004 and May 2004: An explosive belt hidden in a cargo of clothing being shipped from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, was uncovered during the security checks. The belt did not contain metal parts in order to avoid the security checks.
 
* March 2004: A double suicide attack took place in the Ashdod port, as two suicide bombers exited the Gaza Strip in a double side wall of a cargo container departing the Gaza Strip for Israel.

* June 2003: A fake documentation of a transfer of 20 tons of concentrated sulfuric acid to the Gaza Strip through the Karni crossing was confiscated. The acid, which is often used as a substance for manufacturing explosive charges, was already transferred into the Gaza Strip.  

* December 2002: A truck containing 7,500 bullets was stopped at the crossing. The ammunition was to be sent to terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

* October 2002: A truck transferring a caravan was stopped at the crossing – 2,000 bullets were hidden on the caravan’s roof.

* August 2002: Bassel Arif, a member of the Palestinian security apparatus in Ramallah, admitted in his questioning that more than 1,500 automatic rifles and over 500,000 bullets were smuggled by different means into the Gaza Strip, through the Karni crossing, in a three-year period.

* June 2001: A truck containing a number of rifles and ammunition (including 30,000 bullets) was stopped at the crossing. 

Recent intelligence information clearly shows that the terrorist organizations are continuing to attempt to use the crossing for attacks.

The dangerous increase of smugglings and attacks carried out in Karni is damaging to the industrial factories located in the industrial zone, near the crossing.

Since the Karni crossing is the main route for raw materials and importing and exporting merchandise, most of the claims that there is a lack of food in the Gaza Strip are a direct result of the economic interests of the sources of power in the PA as opposed to the humanitarian interests, which harm the Palestinian population and its ability to maintain a reasonable standard of living.
 
Despite this, the IDF takes great efforts in order to ease conditions for the Palestinian population in the Gaza strip.

On Sunday, May 30, 2004, the Erez industrial zone was opened to allow for the entry of Palestinian workers.

On Monday, May 31, 2004, 154 gas balloons and 65 tracks carrying food entered into the Gaza Strip via the Karni crossing.