Israel to let more building materials into Gaza

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency said it had been given the go-ahead for new construction

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Israel is to allow the entry of more building materials into the Gaza Strip, officials on both sides said Sunday.

“About 1,000 tons of cement and building materials will enter the Gaza Strip for storm damage restoration and other projects of U.N. agencies,” the Israeli defense ministry said in a statement.

Last month a fierce winter storm hit the Palestinian enclave, with strong winds and heavy flooding causing damage to homes and infrastructure.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which cares for Palestinian refugees, said it had been given the go-ahead for new construction but said the work was unrelated to storm repairs.

“Israel informed UNRWA that it approved the entry of construction materials for six new projects in Gaza,” agency spokesman Ahmad Abu Hassna told AFP, adding that they were for a residential neighborhood and five schools.

Delivery was expected during the coming week.

But Raed Fatuh, the Palestinian Authority official in charge of the entry of goods into Gaza, said “the Palestinian side has not been officially informed about this”.

Israel in October reinstated an on-off ban on construction materials for Gaza, after troops discovered a sophisticated tunnel running under the Israel-Gaza border, built with the alleged aim of perpetrating Palestinian militant attacks.

In December it said it would allow renewed shipments but only for use in U.N. projects.

The import of steel and cement for private use has been banned, except for a brief interlude, since the Islamist group Hamas seized power in Gaza in 2007 for fear it would use such materials to build tunnels and fortify its fighters’ positions.

The territory has been under an Israeli blockade since 2006, when Gaza militants snatched an Israeli soldier who was released in a prisoner swap deal in 2011.

The blockade was tightened in 2007 after Hamas seized control, but eased considerably in recent years, following successive waves of international pressure.