First load of construction material for Gaza in a year

15 Oct

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Truckloads of cement and steel roll into the coastal enclave for the first time in a year, as Israel lifts it’s ban on construction materials (Photo: Jerusalem Post)

John Reed, Jerusalem, Financial Times, 14 October 2014

Israel has allowed trucks carrying construction materials to enter the Gaza Strip for the first time in a year, marking the start of a massive rebuilding task following its war with Hamas this summer.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, announced the move on Tuesday as he visited Gaza and a southern Israeli border community for the first time since the war. Mr Ban urged both sides to end their “build-destroy, build-destroy cycle” by forging a permanent peace.

In Gaza, Mr Ban visited a school in the northern district of Jabalya that was hit by Israeli shells in late July, which killed 20 people – including three children – sheltering from Israeli bombardment. He said the school shelling had been “absolutely unacceptable” and called for accountability for those responsible.

“My visit today to the school and Gaza has reinforced my conviction that there is no time to lose,” he said. “There can be no peace in the Middle East, no security for Israel while the crisis in Gaza festers.”

In Nirim, an Israeli kibbutz in the southern Negev region, the UN secretary-general spoke with residents, including relatives of a four-year-old boy killed by a mortar fired from over the nearby Gaza border in August. Mr Ban also toured one of the tunnels built by Hamas under the Gaza-Israel border.

Israel halted exports of construction materials to Gaza in October 2013 after discovering one such tunnel, dozens of which its military later destroyed during this summer’s 50-day war with Hamas.

The resumption of building supplies exports came after an agreement between the UN, the Palestinians and Cogat, the Israeli military body that handles civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories.

Israel’s military said on Tuesday that it had shipped 600 tons of cement, 50 trucks of construction aggregates and 10 trucks of metal in its first shipment of building materials.

The war left large swaths of Gaza in ruins and aid agencies have warned rebuilding would take many years without a relaxation of Israeli restrictions. International donors pledged $5.4bn to rebuild Gaza and support the Palestinian budget at a donors’ conference in Cairo on Sunday.

Israel also said that in coming weeks it would allow the export of agricultural goods from Gaza to the West Bank, which it had prohibited for security reasons, hitting one of the few industries in the densely populated enclave able to sell its products abroad.

Israel said the first such transfer would include 15 tons of goods, mostly dates and sweet potatoes, but over time additional goods such as fish would be exported.

 

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