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International projects in Gaza receive cement despite private sector ban

April 25, 2016 6:14 P.M. (Updated: April 30, 2016 10:17 A.M.)
GAZA (Ma’an) -- International organizations in the Gaza Strip received a cement delivery on Saturday, while a suspension on cement imports for the private sector was still being enforced by Israeli authorities.

Head of the Palestinian Contractors Union Osama Kahil told Ma’an that 2,000 tons of cement entered the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing on Saturday, and he expected further cement deliveries to enter in the coming week due to efforts by the Palestinian Ministry of Civil Affairs.

The shipments of cement would allow reconstruction efforts by international organizations to continue in the besieged coastal enclave, Kahil said.

Reconstruction efforts in the Gaza Strip have also been “expanded to include Turkish, German, and American plans in addition to the UN and Qatari plans of reconstruction,” Kahil added.

He assured efforts by the Palestinian Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheikh were ongoing to continue the flow of cement through Kerem Shalom.

A spokesperson for Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) told Ma’an that the suspension of construction materials entering the Gaza Strip was still being enforced due to “exploitation of construction materials by Hamas,” and that the ban would still be in place “until the issue is addressed.”

They added that the suspension only affected the private sector, and that entry for international projects was proceeding as usual.

Saturday’s delivery comes one week after it was revealed Israeli forces uncovered and destroyed a tunnel passing from the Gaza Strip into Israel, once a gag order by Israel’s government was lifted on its discovery.

The tunnel -- the first to be found since Israel's devastating military offensive on the coastal enclave in 2014 -- was reportedly discovered one week prior to the publication of the incident, around the time Israel suspended delivery of cement into the Gaza Strip.

Israeli authorities have previously accused the Gaza Strip's de facto ruling party Hamas of stealing reconstruction material to sell on the black market and use to build tunnels.

Reconstruction efforts following the the 50-day war have been painfully slow -- hindered by Israel's blockade, ongoing disputes between Gaza's de facto leaders Hamas and the Fatah-dominated PA, and a severe shortage of foreign assistance.

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