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Gaza gets second postwar delivery of building materials

Nov. 25, 2014 4:11 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 26, 2014 8:41 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (AFP) -- Twenty-eight trucks of cement entered the battered Gaza Strip Tuesday in only the second delivery of building materials for the private sector since a 50-day summer war, an official said.

Raed Fattuh, the PA official in charge of the entry of goods into Gaza from Israel through the Kerem Shalom crossing, said 28 trucks, each carrying 40 tons of cement, had crossed into the enclave.

It was the first delivery of building materials for the private sector since Oct. 14, when 75 trucks entered Gaza, carrying 1,300 tons of material -- 15 trucks of cement, 10 of metal and 50 of gravel.

"This is the biggest delivery of cement since the war ended," Fatuh told AFP, referring to the seven-week conflict between Israel and Hamas militants which ended with a truce on Aug. 26.

"But it is not enough, it is only a tiny amount for the reconstruction."

He said there had been no further deliveries since October because Israel had halted the process over concerns about how the materials had been used.

Many people were in any case unable to make use of that cement, delivered as UN chief Ban Ki-moon visited the tiny enclave, Fatuh said.

"Most of the people who got cement last time need money from either (the UN) or the government in order to buy other materials to use with it," he said.

Last week, UN special envoy Robert Serry said the delivery of building materials would resume, giving 25,000 home owners access to materials to repair their damaged homes.

"In the coming weeks, all individuals in Gaza in need of building materials will be enabled to access the mechanism if they wish to do so," Serry said in a statement on Nov. 21.

But Fattuh said it was not clear whether Tuesday's delivery was a one-off or would be followed by others. He said he had no idea when Israel would allow the entry of materials other than cement.

"We don't know if the Israelis will permit it again tomorrow or whether they will allow in only one or two trucks," he said.

Palestinian officials say at least 100 trucks of building materials a day are needed to complete the reconstruction of Gaza within three years.

"There will be no reconstruction here if the mechanism stays like this. It will take 20 to 30 years," another Palestinian official told AFP, on condition of anonymity.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees is compiling a technical assessment of how many refugee homes were damaged or destroyed in the war which should be completed within a fortnight.

Refugees make up around 75 percent of Gaza's 1.8 million population.

Interim figures indicate that nearly 89,000 refugee homes were damaged, of which 15,000 were either completely destroyed or so badly damaged as to be uninhabitable.
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