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Egypt allows Qatar building materials to enter Gaza

Jan. 7, 2013 11:51 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 8, 2013 5:44 P.M.)
EL-ARISH, Egypt (Ma'an) -- Egypt allowed building materials into the Gaza Strip via the Rafah crossing on Sunday, the second shipment of its kind since Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007.

Sixty-two truckloads of gravel entered the coastal enclave, part of a shipment by the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, which has pledged $400 million to finance reconstruction in Gaza.

On Dec. 29, Egyptian authorities allowed building materials into Gaza for the first time since 2007.

The Rafah border with Egypt is the only Gaza crossing not controlled by Israel, which withdrew its settlers and soldiers from Gaza in 2005.

Cairo has restricted the use of Rafah crossing to travelers and medical relief, giving rise to extensive smuggling into Gaza through tunnels under the border.

Leaders in the Muslim Brotherhood, which propelled Mursi to the presidency in a June election, had said they backed the idea of opening Rafah to trade. But Mursi has taken no public steps in that direction since taking office.

Cairo has long feared that opening Rafah fully might prompt Israel to close permanently the other crossings with Gaza, which it captured from Egypt in the 1967 Middle East war.

"Rafah had been closed for goods for so many years and we always hoped such a policy would change, without exempting the Israeli occupation from their responsibilities. Israel must end the closure and reopen all crossings with Gaza," a Hamas official said.

The United Nations has described Israel's blockade on Gaza as a form of collective punishment, with other rights groups questioning the basis of Israel's security justification for the siege.
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