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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06JERUSALEM612
2006-02-09 19:10:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Consulate Jerusalem
Cable title:  

ORGANIZED LOOTING OF FORMER SETTLEMENT GREENHOUSES

Tags:   ECON  EAGR  PGOV  EAID  KWBG 
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VZCZCXYZ0016
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHJM #0612/01 0401910
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 091910Z FEB 06
FM AMCONSUL JERUSALEM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0273
INFO RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN IMMEDIATE 6241
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT IMMEDIATE 4410
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO IMMEDIATE 3135
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON IMMEDIATE 2901
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV IMMEDIATE 0942
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS IMMEDIATE
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY IMMEDIATE
						C O N F I D E N T I A L JERUSALEM 000612 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

NEA FOR FRONT OFFICE; NEA/IPA FOR WILLIAMS/WATERS/LOGERFO;
TREASURY FOR NUGENT/ADKINS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/09/2015
TAGS: ECON EAGR PGOV EAID KWBG
SUBJECT: ORGANIZED LOOTING OF FORMER SETTLEMENT GREENHOUSES
IN GAZA


Classified By: Consul General Jake Walles for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).



1. (C) Summary: On February 6 and 7, armed men looted
greenhouses in a former settlement in Gaza. USAID reported
that 250 dunums of greenhouses in the former settlement of
Gan-Or sustained heavy damage. Although the police arrested
50 looters, only 14 cases have been turned over to the
Attorney General. Hamas publicly blamed the Palestinian
Authority (PA) for failing to protect the greenhouses. The
PA-owned Palestine Economic Development (PED) Company
responsible for managing the greenhouses asked the PA to stem
the looting, already valued at USD 1 million. PED also said
it had turned over detailed files of the looting to the
Attorney General whose office is investigating the looting
and plans to prosecute those responsible for the theft.
President Abbas told the Consul General February 9 that he
was aware of the problem and would take appropriate steps.
End Summary.

Extensive damage to Gan-Or greenhouses


--------------------------





2. (SBU) In the former settlement area of Gan-Or, south of
Khan Younis in Gaza, armed looters stole agricultural produce
and greenhouse equipment on February 6 and 7. The damaged
greenhouses were part of the original USD 12 million purchase
by private U.S. donors from the settlers and handed over to
the PA when the GOI disengaged from Gaza in September 2005.
A USAID grantee reported the following observations:

-- In Gan-Or, the former settlement greenhouses, including
metal structures, nylons, nets, and storage rooms were all
removed.

-- In the adjacent former Gadid settlement, the plastic
flooring of the large rainwater pool was torn apart and
stolen. Nothing remains.

-- No security personnel were observed at Gan-Or or at the
pool.

-- Security was heightened at the former settlements of Gadid
and Bedolah as they are likely to be the next targets for the
thieves since Gan-Or is located between those two
settlements.



3. (SBU) According to a February 8 report in Arabic daily
al-Ayyam, the chief of police in Khan Younis, Colonel Mustafa
Wafe', said the greenhouses spanned a large area and would
require many personnel to provide adequate coverage. Wafe'
was quoted as saying that the police were trying to provide
assistance but had limited resources. On February 7, the
police arrested 50 looters, 14 of whom were carrying stolen
items. Their cases were turned over to the office of the
Attorney-General for prosecution.



4. (C) A USAID contractor providing assistance to PED, the
Palestinian company managing the greenhouses, said the
situation was deteriorating and that local law enforcement
and security guards were not in control. He estimated that

about 250 dunums of greenhouses were looted. In most cases,
he said, the looters were taking the structural framework of
the greenhouses and leaving behind the plastic shell. Gan-Or
was the primary site of the destruction. He confirmed that
all of the packing houses renovated with USAID funds,
approximately USD 4 million, remained in good shape and no
equipment appeared to have been taken.



5. (C) A USAID grantee on-the-ground verified the damages to
the Gan-Or greenhouses, but noted that 270 dunums of Gan-Or
greenhouses had been protected by farmers from the looters,
who appeared to be local residents. The grantee added that
150 dunums destroyed had originally been planted with
cucumber, watermelon, and sweet peppers, while 40 dunums had
not been planted. In addition, 60 dunums of greenhouses that
had been damaged still had their structured skeleton but
without nylon.

Hamas blames the PA, calls
for stepped-up security


--------------------------






6. (SBU) In a February 7 public statement Hamas made the
following points:

-- the parties responsible for the protection of the
greenhouses bear all responsibility for the damage;

-- the Ministry of Interior bears its responsibility and
should act to protect what is left of the greenhouses;

-- the Attorney-General and legal bodies should prosecute
those responsible for destroying public property; and

-- the Palestinian people should not join this type of
activity, which could draw attention away from those
responsible for stealing larger sums of money.

Lack of funding led to
departure of the security guards


--------------------------





7. (C) The former settlement greenhouses in these areas are
managed by the Palestine Economic Development Company (PED),
fully owned by the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF) of which
the sole shareholder is the PA. The guards that were hired
to protect the greenhouses after disengagement were not being
paid by PED but through the PA's unemployment compensation
program. Given the PA's dire financial situation, the PA
Finance Ministry reportedly dismissed the guards February 1
because of an inability to continue funding their contracts.
(Comment: Most of the guards were considered Fatah
sympathizers and may have contributed to the looting in order
not to leave anything of value for the next government.
Little did they know that PED, owned by PIF, is actually
under the President's control, per a February 4 Presidential
decree. End Comment.)

PED calls for help, office of
the Attorney-General responds


--------------------------





8. (SBU) PED head Basil Jaber issued a statement February 9
announcing that the value of equipment stolen from the
greenhouses was over USD 1 million. Jaber criticized the
theft of public property that was intended to benefit the
Palestinian people. He said the closure of Karni over the
last two weeks had resulted in heavy losses. Combined with
the looting, this would mean that PED would fail to reach
projected revenues of 16 million euros by end-May 2006.
While he noted that the PA is responsible for protecting the
greenhouses, Jaber said the PA's dire financial situation had
forced it to release the security guards from duty. The
dismissed guards were not armed and had nothing to do with
the looting, Jaber said. He also stressed that PED had
turned over detailed files on the looters and what was looted
to the Ministry of Interior and the Attorney General.



9. (SBU) Arabic daily Al-Quds reported February 9 Attorney
General Ahmed al-Moghani's statement that his office was
investigating the looting. Tens of people had been arrested
for theft and would be prosecuted, he said. In addition, his
office had confiscated some of the equipment that had been
stolen from the greenhouses.



10. (C) The Consul General raised the issue of the looting
of the greenhouses with PA President Mahmud Abbas in a
February 9 meeting. Abbas said that he was aware of the
situation and would address it.



11. (C) Comment: The looting of public assets further
demonstrates the breakdown of law and order on the ground in
Gaza, compounded by the continued failure of the security
services to protect these public assets. While the PED, its
owner the Palestine Investment Fund, and the PA cabinet have
all indicated their preference to privatize these greenhouse
assets, the infrastructure losses from this round of looting
as well as the spoiled produce due to the three-week closure
of the Karni crossing (valued at USD 2 million according to
Basil Jaber) will surely test the courage of any future
investor.
WALLES