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Gaza builders get rare shipment of cement

Sept. 22, 2013 2:37 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 23, 2013 10:17 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (AFP) -- Israel on Sunday permitted delivery of cement and steel for use by the private sector into the Gaza Strip for the first time since 2007, a Palestinian Authority official said.

"Israel allowed today for the first time in six years, the entry of 40 trucks filled with gravel, 20 trucks loaded with cement and 10 with steel for the private sector in Gaza" Raed Fattouh, the PA official in charge of Gaza supplies, said in a statement.

Fearing that Gaza's Hamas rulers would use construction materials to fortify its positions and build tunnels to aid attacks, Israel banned their transfer in 2007.

In a truce deal after an eight-day confrontation with Hamas in November 2012, Israel started letting 20 trucks of gravel in each day.

Building materials were for years smuggled from Egypt into Gaza through tunnels underneath the border town of Rafah, but the Egyptian army recently destroyed many of those after ousting president Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, a Hamas ally.

Israeli NGO Gisha, which lobbies for freedom of movement for Palestinians, welcomed the limited resumption of supplies but said the amounts were still insufficient.

"It doesn't make up for the amount which came through the tunnels to Gaza in the first half of the year when they were in regular operation," Gisha spokesman Amir Oren told AFP.

Israel first imposed its land, sea and air blockade on the coastal strip in 2006 after militants there seized an Israeli soldier.

It was further tightened in mid-2007 when Hamas took control of Gaza.

It eased the blockade slightly following an international outcry after its botched commando raid on a Turkish Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010, allowing food and building materials for internationally funded projects.
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