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Israel allows more building material into Gaza

Published: Updated:

For the first time in six years, Israel began allowing construction material for private projects into the Gaza Strip on Sunday.

An Israeli Defense official told Reuters the ban was lifted in response to a request from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The official said on Tuesday that 350 truckloads a week of gravel, cement and steel would be delivered to Gaza for use by private builders in the strip.

At Kerem Shalom, the only Israeli-operating crossing with Gaza, building material was seen carried by a column of trucks entering the facility, where the cargo would be offloaded and transferred to Palestinian vehicles.

Gaza is in need of up to 400 trucks of gravel, 200 trucks of cement and 100 trucks of steel every day. We have been urging the Israeli side to increase the working hours at the crossing to allow more goods to enter,” Raed Fattouh, the West Bank-based Palestinian coordinator of supplies into Gaza, told Reuters.

The economic sanctions imposed on Gaza by Israeli authorities since Hamas took over the territory in 2007, have had a starkly negative effect on the strip. The situation worsened as the Egyptian military began a crackdown on tunnels used to smuggle goods and weapons from Egypt to its Palestinian neighbor.

Abbas, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which governs the West Bank but not Gaza, restarted peace talks with Israel in July.

Israel had justified restrictions on the import of building materials to Gaza by citing fears of illegal use by Palestinian militants for fortifications and weapons.

Israel, under international pressure, started lifting some of the restrictions on the strip in 2010.

(Reuters)