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Israel allows cement into Gaza after near 2-month ban

May 21, 2016 10:14 A.M. (Updated: May 23, 2016 1:45 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Israel allowed the entry of cement into the Gaza Strip on Thursday evening, following a two-month ban imposed on the besieged enclave, according to the Palestinian Authority’s department of civil affairs.

The department’s media director, Muhammad al-Maqadma, said in a press statement that Hussein al-Sheikh, the minister of civil affairs, had worked on returning the entry of cement after a two-month suspension.

Al-Maqadna added that beneficiaries and sellers could reapply for access to cement imports on Sunday, as cement trucks were expected to enter the Gaza Strip on Monday morning via the Kerem Shalom crossing between the besieged enclave and Israel.

Israel’s suspension of cement imports in the Gaza Strip was applied to the private sector, while international organizations were allowed access to cement shipments for reconstruction efforts.

A spokesperson for the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) could not be immediately reached for comment.

The Israeli authorities implemented the ban on April 3, following the discovery of a tunnel passing from the Gaza Strip into Israel -- the first of two to be found since Israel's devastating military offensive on the coastal enclave in 2014 -- and accused Hamas of diverting construction materials from its intended legitimate beneficiaries.

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.

However, according to OCHA, “Most of the previously entered shelter repair and reconstruction material has already been sold to beneficiaries.”

Israel’s cement ban was widely criticized for exacerbating an already crippling near-decade blockade on the small Palestinian enclave, as it prevented hundreds of Gazans who were made homeless during the devastating 2014 war from rebuilding their homes, including suspending the jobs of some 40,000 workers employed in the construction sector.
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