Israel recently organized a special summit for members of Gaza’s agricultural community. The meeting, combined with emergency aid transfered to Gaza last weekend, exemplified Israel’s constant cooperation with Palestinians in the region.
If you buy a tomato at a supermarket in Sweden, the Netherlands or some other European countries, there’s a chance it was grown in the Gaza Strip. Tomato exports to Europe are just one result of the cooperation that improves Gaza’s economy every day. ”The civilian population in Gaza is not our enemy,” explains Captain Roni Kaplan, the IDF (Zahal)’s spokesperson for the Spanish-speaking world. “The enemy is terrorism,” he says, referring to misconceptions about Israel’s actions to minimize threats from Gaza.
A meeting to enhance cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians
In a special summit last week, Israeli officials brought together key figures who specialize in the production and sale of agricultural products from Israel and Gaza. The meeting focused on strengthening cooperation between producers in Gaza and Israeli professionals from a range of fields. Organized by the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration (CLA), under the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the summit was attended by twelve leaders of Gaza agricultural organizations and representatives of the Israeli Ministry of Health, customs agents and entrepreneurs who market Gaza crops in Europe.
“These kinds of meetings are constant,” explains Uri Madar, coordinator of agricultural cooperation for the CLA. On a regular basis, Israel holds talks, workshops and summits designed to strengthen relations and promote trade from Gaza. “It’s important to be able to help your neighbors grow their own food and market it,” he explains.
Cooperation during Crisis
Just last weekend, Israel helped international organizations transfer aid to Palestinians after a massive storm struck the region. As soon as the storm began, the IDF (Zahal) and COGAT authorized the opening of crossings for the passage of fuel and equipment to reduce flooding in the Gaza Strip.
In total, 1.2 million liters of fuel were transferred through Israel’s Kerem Shalom Crossing into Gaza. The fuel included 800,000 liters of diesel fuel for transportation, 400,000 liters of diesel fuel for Gaza’s power station, and another 200 tons of household gas. COGAT is maintaining ongoing coordination with the Palestinian Authority on the issue of transfers to Gaza.
In Judea and Samaria, the IDF (Zahal) cleared roads and collaborated with Palestinians to bring aid to civilians. Earlier today two Palestinian ambulances were rescued by IDF (Zahal) forces of the Judea Territorial Brigade after getting stuck in the snow on road 35 near Hebron. Another rescue mission by the Shomron Territorial Brigade took place on road 60 near Ramallah, as a Red Crescent emergency vehicle was unable to continue driving.
2nd Lt. Nira Lee coordinates the entrance of Palestinian ambulances into the Gaza Strip.
Fighting Terrorism while Meeting Civilian Needs
Both Israel and the civilian population in Gaza are the victims of Hamas’ terror and ideology. In Gaza, Hamas violates the rights of women, indoctrinates children with messages of hate, and uses civilians as human shields for its weapons. In Israel, millions of civilians live in range of Hamas’ rocket fire. Despite Hamas’ violence, the IDF (Zahal) carefully distinguishes between terrorist organizations and civilians, making constant efforts to collaborate with the Palestinian people.
Like Israelis, citizens in Gaza want a normal routine free of violence, but terrorist organizations such as Hamas interfere with that goal. While Hamas allows Gaza farmers to participate in events like last week’s summit, it contradicts the spirit of cooperation through its frequent propaganda and terrorist activity.
Hamas Rocket Threat
Hamas, which effectively rules the Gaza Strip, also abuses international aid to advance its terrorist aims. In October, IDF (Zahal) forces uncovered a Hamas tunnel used to carry out terrorist attacks and kidnappings inside of Israel. Terrorists built the tunnel using materials supplied by Israel in order to promote construction and improve quality of life in Gaza.
As we work toward coexistence, we emphasize that our military efforts are aimed strictly at terrorists who use violence against the people of Israel. Whether in moments of calm or crisis, Israel will assist Gaza’s civilians through the close cooperation that has thrived until today.