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Gaza under Israeli Siege? No Way!


KEREM SHALOM, Israel – Palestinians claim the Gaza Strip is under siege from Israel. Yes, Israel and Egypt enforce a total blockade to prevent weapons from going to Hamas in that region, but it's far from a siege.

Although Israel faces constant threats from the south, it still must provide goods for Palestinians living in Gaza. That often includes giving them materials that can be used against the Jewish state.

Israel said recently that Hamas is stealing a majority of the concrete being shipped into Gaza to rebuild its terror tunnels after the 2014 war.

"It's a little bit complicated, but unfortunately it's not the border between [the] Swiss and French," said Ami Shaked.  Shaked manages the Kerem Shalom crossing point between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Egypt closed its border with the Strip last year leaving Israel as the sole provider for Gaza.  Kerem Shalom serves as a lifeline for Palestinian Arabs in the Gaza Strip.  

"So as you see it's not a pleasant place – a lot of concrete, a lot of weapons, a lot of shelters, a lot of cameras," Shaked said. "But the reason is that we have to serve innocent people but they are from territory [from which] we have [a] threat. [They have] been occupied by groups of terror."

Israel facilitates the passage of food, cooking fuel, building materials and other necessities.

Many Gazans are poor and unemployed, yet Gaza also benefits from this crossing because it can export vegetables, home goods and scrap metal to Israel and elsewhere.  

850 Truckloads Everyday

Thousands of tons of goods are transported daily from Israel as 850 trucks per day move goods through 12 giant "rooms" on this 160 acre plot. The "rooms" are huge concrete enclosures, where the goods undergo a security check and are then transferred.   

"We share the same rooms but not the same hours. Ok, it's different hours," Shaked said. "When we finish our procedures, we go outside and allow the Palestinian team… nearby us to take the goods to the Palestinian side. This is what they do all the day," he explained. "These trucks and these drivers working only in 400 meters from the Israeli side to the Palestinian side and that's it. They never leave to Gaza, they remain in the crossing point. They will never see Gaza again."

Shaked said that even though the Israelis and Palestinians work together like an orchestra, they never meet.

"When you been attacked hundreds of times by groups of terror, trust is not the first stone that you put in this building," Shaked said, noting that he is the only person who talks to both Israelis and Palestinians. "We don't try to build here relationships. We try to live here under threat," he added.

You might think since Kerem Shalom is a lifeline, it would be spared, even protected.

"This crossing point [has a] bad history with attacks. [In] 2008 it was totally destroyed by attack of Hamas groups. In 2012, it was attacked by Jihad Global from Egypt. And Egypt is not far away from here it's 100 meter. And between these things, it was attacked by rockets and mortars from the Gaza side," Shaked said.

Prevent Smuggling

In addition to attacks, there must be constant monitoring to prevent smuggling attempts that bolster the enemy.

"I can tell you in the last months we captured two kinds of imported chemicals, let's say they're enough for 5,000 rockets.

And that's not all. Israel says Hamas is stealing 95 percent of the cement intended to rebuild Gaza and using it to build attack tunnels under the border.

"We found our cement on tunnels, underground, inside Gaza," he said.

In April, the army exposed a tunnel near Kerem Shalom intended to infiltrate Israel and attack civilians. About 60,000 Israelis live in the area around the Gaza Strip. Sharon Kalderon is one of them.

"This is something terrifying," Kalderon told CBN News.  We don't know when the terrorists are going to get out and from where."

Shaked pointed out that although Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, uprooting more than 9,000 Israelis in the process, rocket and other terror attacks continue.

"Israel, even under threat [does] the best that she can to help the people of Gaza to live a normal life but unfortunately, most of the things are not in the hand of Israel," he added.  

That's why it is important that the international community somehow convinces the Gazans of the need to help themselves.

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