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Israeli army announces soldier killed in Gaza
Israel allows building material to enter Gaza
Published Sunday 30/12/2012 (updated) 02/01/2013 16:56
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A Palestinian cleans a mosque damaged in an Israeli air strike
in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip Nov. 16, 2012.
(Reuters/Suhaib Salem)

GAZA (Reuters) -- Israel allowed a shipment of gravel for private construction to enter Gaza on Sunday for the first time since Hamas seized control in 2007.

A Palestinian official with knowledge of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire that ended eight days of fighting last month between Israel and Gaza militants said the move had been expected as part of the deal.

"This is the first time gravel has been allowed into Gaza for the Palestinian private sector since the blockade," said Raed Fattouh, a Palestinian crossings official overseeing the shipment of 20 truckloads of the material.

Israel tightened its blockade on Gaza after Hamas took power five years ago. But under international pressure, Israel began to ease the restrictions in 2010 and has allowed international aid agencies to import construction material.

The gravel was transferred a day after Egypt allowed building material into Gaza through its Rafah crossing, departing from a six-year ban. It was part of a shipment donated by the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, which has pledged $400 million to finance reconstruction.

Gaza economists say nearly 70 percent of the enclave's commercial needs - including building material and fuel - were being met through shipments via Israel and a network of smuggling tunnels running under the Egyptian border.

One Palestinian official said Israeli counterparts had promised "other building items" would be allowed into Gaza in the coming days.

"Israel has promised to ease the blockade more if the truce continues to hold," said the official, who asked not to be identified.

Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom, speaking to reporters in Jerusalem, said more than 300 truckloads of goods have been moving from Israel to the Gaza Strip on a daily basis.

"They can have much more if they would like to," he said.

The United Nations has described Israel's blockade on Gaza as a form of collective punishment, with other rights groups questioning the basis of Israel's security justification for the siege.

In 2012, Israel was forced to release information on a 2008 government study detailing how many calories Palestinians in Gaza would require to avoid malnutrition.

The document said that "in order to maintain the basic fabric of life" in the area, Israel would allow in 106 trucks with food and other essential goods every day. Israeli rights groups say some 400 trucks delivered goods to Gaza before the blockade.

In 2006, Dov Weisglass, an Israeli government adviser, was widely quoted as saying that "the idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger."

Ma'an staff contributed to this report
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1 ) Bonnie Prince Charlie / United Kingdom
30/12/2012 14:38
What guarantees are there in place to ensure that building materials are used for peaceful purposes and not to build rocket launching sites, munitions dumps etc? Who is monitoring the usage?

2 ) IPLO DUBLIN / EIRE
30/12/2012 15:36
look whos the crimnal now lieberman

3 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
30/12/2012 22:25
More Palestinian blah blah blah. Look at all the tv pictures from Gaza - no starving people. In fact, too many overweight people just like everywhere else these days. As for the United Nations, the entire world knows that it is an almost useless organization that is overstaffed with highly overpaid bureaucrats responsible to nobody but themselves. Tens of millions of starving and destitute refugees around the world wished the UN treated them like Palestinians.

4 ) Doug / USA
30/12/2012 23:40
So Bonnie. Are you afraid that the Palestinians will fire gravel at israel? Why don't you instead worry about who will make sure that everything being brought into israel is used for peaceful purposes. Like cluster-bombs, raw materials for nuclear weapons, 21st century bombers from the U.S. It is NOT the Palestinians that have the l-o-n-g track record of attacking and occupying and colonizing and stealing land and water and taxes. It is the Rogue nation of israel.

5 ) Arnold / Canada
31/12/2012 01:06
Brian Cohen. Of all your points the most poignant is the one in reference to the millions of refugees around the world that wish they were treated as well as the Palestinians have been for the past 43 years. Imagine having Palestinian refugees and the descendents in camps all these years. Where is the compassion of their arab bretheran ?

6 ) @ Doug-4 / USA too
01/01/2013 18:34
You are so funny writing about "firing gravel at Israel", but as Bonnie-1 writes, the building materials will likely be used to "build rocket launching sites", and also likely WAR WILL RETURN TO GAZA, just as soon as Hamas is ready, or UNTIL HAMAS ACCEPTS PEACE cWITH ISRAEL.
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