Israel intends to significantly increase the amount of building material for
private sector projects allowed into the Gaza Strip from 20 truckloads a day to
70, according to the nonprofit group Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of
Beginning on Sunday, for the first time since 2007, steel and
cement will be able to enter Gaza for private sector projects, according to
Gisha’s executive director Sari Bashi.
The move follows a massive
crackdown by the Egyptian military on the smuggling from Egypt via the tunnels
near Rafah, including construction material.
Bashi estimated that about
190 truckloads a day of building material had entered Gaza through the Rafah
tunnels, so that the new easement, while welcomed, did not make up the shortfall
of building material in Gaza.
In 2007, after Hamas took control of Gaza
in a violent coup, Israel banned the entry of building material into the Strip,
except in limited quantities for international projects, fearing the materials
posed a security risk.
In 2010, the IDF significantly increased the
amount of building material for international projects, Bashi said. Then, in
November 2012, after Operation Pillar of Defense, it allowed 20 truckloads of
gravel a day into Gaza for the private sector.
According to Gisha, as of
Sunday, the daily entry limit for the private sector will now be 40 truckloads
of gravel, 20 of cement and 10 of steel.
Bashi said that in general she
was concerned the Kerem Shalom crossing, through which trucks now travel from
Israel into Gaza, does not have the capacity to handle the increased volume of
goods that will need to enter the strip from Israel as the result of the closure
of the Rafah tunnels.
The office of the Coordinator of Government
Activities in the Territories could not be reached for comment on Thursday
With the tunnels from Egypt shut, prices for consumer items have
risen in the enclave.
Cheap Egyptian fuel is in short supply, with
hours-long lines each day at Gaza gas stations.
Israeli fuel is available – at double the
price of the Egyptian product.
Separately, Egypt partially reopened its
border crossing with the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, a week after it was closed in
response to a deadly attack on an Egyptian military headquarters near the
Witnesses said two buses took 100 passengers into Egypt through
the Rafah crossing, while hundreds of other people waited outside the gates for
a chance to enter Egypt.
Palestinian Authority officials said Cairo
agreed to open the crossing for four hours on Wednesday and Thursday at PA
President Mahmoud Abbas’s request, to address the humanitarian needs of patients
seeking treatment in Egypt and of students studying there.
president Mohamed Morsi was forced from office in July, Cairo has shut Rafah
Thousands of Palestinians have been stranded in the Gaza
Strip for weeks. When Rafah has been open, Egypt has limited the number of
passengers allowed through each day to 300, compared with 1,200 before Morsi was
Egyptian authorities last shut Rafah a week ago after assailants
crashed two explosive-laden cars into a security building adjacent to the border
zone, killing six Egyptian soldiers. The lawless Sinai Peninsula has seen
frequent battles between the Egyptian military and Islamist
Egyptian officials have accused Hamas of aiding the Muslim
Brotherhood in Sinai – an allegation the Palestinian group denies – and say
restrictions at Rafah were linked to the security situation in the
Reuters contributed to this story.