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Cement deliveries resume to Gaza's private sector following Israeli ban

May 23, 2016 2:18 P.M. (Updated: June 30, 2016 6:40 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) – Dozens of truckloads of cement entered the Gaza Strip on Monday for delivery to the private sector, following a near-45-day ban imposed by Israel on the entry of cement.

The ban was imposed on April 3 after Israeli authorities accused Hamas -- the de-facto ruler of the besieged coastal enclave -- of diverting construction materials from its intended legitimate beneficiaries, following the discovery of a tunnel passing from the Gaza Strip into Israel.

Muhammad al-Maqadma, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee, told Ma’an that approximately 80 truckloads of cement were expected to enter the Gaza Strip on Monday via the Kerem Shalom crossing.

A spokesperson for Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) confirmed to Ma’an that truckloads of cement entered the Gaza Strip on Monday. She highlighted that the cement ban had been applied only to the private sector while cement deliveries for internationally funded projects have been ongoing.

In a statement released on Monday, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov welcomed the resumption of cement deliveries to the private sector of the small Palestinian territory, which is still recovering from the devastating 2014 Israeli aerial assault from which some 75,000 Palestinians remain homeless.

“The humanitarian challenges in Gaza remain vast and all efforts should be made to resolve the housing, electricity, and water crises. It is critical for the security of both Palestinians and Israelis that Gaza remains calm and hope is restored to its people,” Mladenov said.

The UN “continues to call for the full lifting of all closures on Gaza,” Mladenov stressed, adding that a “permanent end to the suffering of the Palestinian people can only be achieved through reuniting Gaza and the West Bank under a single, legitimate and democratic Palestinian national authority and the realization of the two-state solution.”

He added that “All sides need to ensure that cement deliveries reach their intended beneficiaries and are used solely for civilian purposes.”

Israeli authorities have previously accused Hamas of stealing reconstruction material to sell on the black market and use to build tunnels.

However, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said following the discovery of the tunnel in April that “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 Palestinian enclave, as it prevented hundreds of Gazans who were made homeless during the 50-day 2014 war from rebuilding their homes, and suspending the jobs of some 40,000 workers employed in the construction sector.

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