Gaza cement deliveries resume after Israel lifts ban

2016-05-23 16:20
Palestinian men gather at a destroyed house targeted in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip. (Said Khatib, AFP)

Palestinian men gather at a destroyed house targeted in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip. (Said Khatib, AFP)

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Gaza City - Private cement deliveries to the Gaza Strip resumed on Monday after Israel lifted a six-week ban it imposed over the alleged diversion of materials by an official in the Palestinian territory.

Israel imposed the ban in early April in the territory run by Islamist movement Hamas which is still rebuilding after a devastating 2014 war.

The ban affected private providers, meaning Qatar, a major donor to Gazan reconstruction, and the UN were still able to bring in cement to Gaza, under an Israeli blockade that has been in place for nearly a decade.

Raed Fattouh, who oversees the entry of goods into the Gaza Strip, said private deliveries had resumed for the first time since April 3.

Robert Piper, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, confirmed that more than 90 trucks entered Gaza on Monday, calling it a "decent return" close to levels towards the beginning of the year.

Israel said late on Sunday that it was lifting the ban "in accordance with the security assessment and the understandings reached with the international community".

It had imposed the ban after accusing Imad al-Baz, deputy director of the Hamas economy ministry, of diverting supplies, which he denied.

Israel restricts the entry of goods into Gaza out of fears they will be used to make weapons or build tunnels that can be used for attacks.

Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008.

UN officials point out that cement deliveries are vital to Gaza's reconstruction and pushed for the ban to be lifted.

Nickolay Mladenov, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, welcomed Israel's decision to lift the ban.

"It is critical for the security of both Palestinians and Israelis that Gaza remains calm and hope is restored to its people," he said.

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