Palestinians looted dozens of greenhouses on Tuesday, walking off with irrigation hoses, water pumps and plastic sheeting in a blow to fledgling efforts to reconstruct the Gaza Strip.
American Jewish donors had bought more than 3,000 greenhouses from Israeli settlers in Gaza for $14 million last month and transferred them to the Palestinian Authority. Former World Bank President James Wolfensohn, who brokered the deal, put up $500,000 of his own cash.
Palestinian police stood by helplessly Tuesday as looters carted off materials from greenhouses in several settlements, and commanders complained they did not have enough manpower to protect the prized assets. In some instances, there was no security and in others, police even joined the looters, witnesses said."We need at least another 70 soldiers. This is just a joke," said Taysir Haddad, one of 22 security guards assigned to Neve Dekalim, formerly the largest Jewish settlement in Gaza. "We've tried to stop as many people as we can, but they're like locusts."
The greenhouses are a centerpiece of Palestinian plans for rebuilding Gaza after 38 years of Israeli occupation. The Palestinian Authority hopes the high-tech greenhouses left by the Israelis will provide jobs and export income for Gaza's shattered economy.
During a tour of Neve Dekalim, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia implored Palestinians to leave the structures intact. "These greenhouses are for the Palestinian people," he said. "We don't want anyone to touch or harm anything that can be useful for our people."
Jihad al-Wazir, the deputy Palestinian finance minister, said roughly 30 percent of the greenhouses suffered various degrees of damage. He said that after a "very heated meeting" with Qureia and other Palestinian leaders, the security forces appeared to be getting the situation under control."We expect the security to protect the assets properly," he said.
Al-Wazir said the greenhouses did not suffer structural damage, but that looters got away with irrigation pipes, plastic sheeting and most troublesome, water pumps. He said authorities were trying to recover the expensive pumps.
You know I am kind of glad that James Wolfensohn is a former World Bank President rather than the current president if this is what he puts in his personal investment portfolio. I am taking bets that the Palestinian Authority Chairman Abbas won't make it through till the end of the month before he is making an international appeal that he needs more foreign aid to jump start the Gaza economy.
But you know it isn’t only the Palestinian Authority who is having a hard time policing in the Gaza Strip now that the Israelis have left according to this Khaleej Times report:
Egyptian troops, meanwhile, failed for a second straight day to control a rush across the Gaza-Egypt border, which had been heavily guarded by Israel. With the Israelis gone, Gazans dug under walls and climbed over barriers to get to Egypt, where they stocked up on cheap cigarettes, medication and food.
The chaos raised new questions about the ability of Palestinian forces to impose order in Gaza, and drew fresh criticism of Egypt. Israel agreed to turn over border security to Egypt as part of its withdrawal.“One would like to hope that what happened there was just a one-time failure by the Egyptian troops to do what is expected of them,” said Zalman Shoval, an adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Israeli officials said they were in contact with Egypt to resolve the matter.
This Debkafile brief is claiming that the Eqyptians have closed the border in a hope to restore order.