Gaza farmers
Palestinian farmers collect potatoes during a harvest in Rafah on the southern Gaza StripReuters

Israel is to begin buying vegetables from the Gaza strip later in March, according to Israeli officials. The move would amount to a partial resumption of imports that were halted in 2007, when Islamist group Hamas took over the Palestinian territory.

Israel said the resumption of imports was partly due to an expected shortfall in crop yields in 2015, with some Israeli farmlands being left fallow, in accordance with Biblical laws relating to the Jewish lunar year. It would also boost the Gazan economy, Israeli officials said on 5 March.

Gaza's economy and infrastructure was devastated by Israel's bombardment and ground invasion in the summer of 2014.

The move was welcomed by Jamal Abu al-Naja, director of the Gaza Vegetable Production and Export Association, who told Reuters news agency he would encourage Palestinian farmers to expand their operations in the long run.

"If implemented, it will help farmers make up for their losses, increase the number of workers and encourage investment in the agricultural sector," he was quoted as saying.

A number of Palestinian farmers closed their operations after Israel imposed an economic blockade in 2007.

Israel has faced growing calls to relax the blockade from international human rights groups and has eased some restrictions on the transport of vegetables from Gaza to the occupied West Bank since the 2014 war.