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Israel halts cement imports into Gaza Strip

April 5, 2016 4:09 P.M. (Updated: April 6, 2016 9:54 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Israeli authorities on Monday suspended the delivery of cement to the blockaded Gaza Strip, claiming that construction materials were being diverted by the Hamas movement.

In a statement, Israel's Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) accused Imad al-Baz, deputy director of Gaza’s Economy Ministry, of seizing construction materials, and said the import of cement into the Gaza Strip had been suspended “until further notice.”

“This is a clear example of how Hamas continues to abuse and harm Gaza's civil population to advance their own personal agenda,” the statement read.

COGAT had previously accused Hamas of using materials intended for reconstruction to build smuggling tunnels.

Al-Baz denied to AFP that Hamas was siphoning off cement from the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism for its own use.

The United Nations called for a speedy resolution of the issue, emphasizing the important need for construction materials in the besieged Palestinian territory, where the infrastructure and thousands of homes were heavily damaged during a devastating Israeli offensive in 2014.

“We are working closely with our Palestinian and Israeli government counterparts to assist in resolving the situation in order to prevent incidents that could lead to any future suspension of imports,” UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement.

“Those who seek to gain through the deviation of materials are stealing from their own people and adding to the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza,” Mladenov added.

Reconstruction of the Gaza Strip has been severely hindered by Israel's nine-year military blockade, which tightly controls shipments into the territory.

The UN reported last year that Gaza could become "uninhabitable" by 2020 if current trends continue.

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