GAZA, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Israel
allowed on Monday the import of cars into the Gaza Strip
for the first time since Hamas
Islamists violently seized control of the territory in 2007.
Five new cars and 15 second-hand vehicles, imported from Korea and Germany, rolled into the Gaza Strip through the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom
Israel tightened its blockade of the Gaza Strip three years ago but relaxed the embargo in June after its killing of nine people in a naval raid on a blockade-running flotilla
caused an international outcry.
Cars have been smuggled into the enclave through tunnels under the Egyptian border and 200 vehicles, selling for twice their normal price, have been brought in this year, local merchants said.
The resumption of car imports will influence the prices of cars especially in the local market. Prices of cars will go down, said Ismail al-Nakhala, head of the Gaza association of car merchants.
The Gaza Ministry of Transportation said there are 65,000 cars registered in the territory, or one per 23 people.
Israel still bans exports from Gaza and the import into the enclave of some 3,000 items, such as building materials, saying they could be used by its enemy Hamas to produce weapons and fortifications.
In another easing of Israeli restrictions, Palestinian officials said Israel had recently agreed to allow employees of the West Bank
-based Palestinian Authority to work, as of next month, inside the Israeli-run Kerem Shalom crossing.
The decision was widely seen in the Gaza Strip as aimed at boosting Palestinian Authority loyalists in the territory. The move was condemned by Hamas, which said it would give the false impression that Palestinians operated the crossing.
The Palestinian Authority is headed by President Mahmoud Abbas
, whose Fatah
forces lost control of the Gaza Strip to Hamas in fighting three years ago.
Hussein al-Sheikh, minister of civil affairs in the Abbas- appointed government in the West Bank, said it was going ahead with the arrangements at Kerem Shalom despite Hamas opposition.
He said he hoped some 350 trucks would eventually cross through Kerem Shalom into the Gaza Strip each day, up from 80 since Israel eased the embargo.