Gaza banned Egypt livestock over foot and mouth concerns
Published Friday 28/09/2012 (updated) 30/09/2012 11:26
A new strain of foot and mouth disease was discovered in the Gaza Strip
in April, after first being detected in Egypt and Libya in February.
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Officials in Gaza have banned the entry of livestock from Egypt due to concerns about foot and mouth disease, but meat levels are being sustained through imports via Israel, government officials said Friday.
Tahseen al-Saqa, a representative of Gaza's ministry of agriculture, said livestock had been prevented from entering Gaza through the underground tunnel network for the past five months.
He assured that there would be sufficient animals available in Gaza for next month's Eid al-Adha holiday, when families slaughter sheep, goats, cows and camels to commemorate Prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail on God's command.
However, the official conceded that livestock prices were high, around 19 to 21 shekel ($4.8 to $5.4) per kilo, which he said was due to the high cost of animal feed.
A new strain of foot and mouth disease was discovered in the Gaza Strip in April, after first being detected in Egypt and Libya in February, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization said. The sick animals were detected in Rafah, on the border with Egypt.
Foot and mouth disease is highly infectious and sometimes fatal. It affects cloven-hoofed animals such as sheep, goats, cattle, buffalo and pigs but is not a direct threat to humans.
An official in Gaza's ministry of agriculture said at the time that farmers had received 20,000 doses of vaccine to fight the disease and played down the seriousness of the outbreak.
Al-Saqa said on Friday that the ministry had been able to coordinate with Egypt to allow entry of a limited number of cattle through the tunnels when necessary.
The animals are held for 12 days at the Rafah crossing for medical tests and vaccinations, he added.
In addition, livestock imported through an Israeli crossing, Kerem Shalom, has sustained the availability of meat, the official said. He said around 3,500 animals came through the crossing this month, an increase on the monthly average of 3,000 animals.
Gaza's ministry of national economy said last week that import of goods through Israel's Kerem Shalom crossing had increased by 22 percent, while noting that the terminal's 300 trucks-per-day entry limit was not sufficient for Gaza's needs.
The Gaza Strip is under an Israeli land and sea blockade, and its sole border crossing not controlled by Israel, Egypt's Rafah terminal, is not equipped for the passage of goods.
To circumvent the blockade, a vast underground tunnel network into Egypt was established, with the oversight of the Hamas-run government, but Egypt has moved to seal the tunnels in recent weeks.