Kerem Shalom Crossing.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel this week temporarily suspended the delivery of cement to Gaza’s private sector after it discovered that Hamas was siphoning the material, which is intended to rebuild destroyed houses.
The Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) monitors the flow of cement into Gaza to ensure that Hamas has not used it to construct tunnels to attack Israel. On Friday COGAT posted on its Arabic Facebook page that it suspended the transfer of cement to Gaza because some deliveries had been diverted by Imad Elbaz, the deputy director-general for Hamas’s economics office.
“This is a blatant violation of agreements for the rehabilitation mechanism,” COGAT said in its Facebook post.
COGAT head Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai temporarily halted the shipments until the matter is fully investigated, COGAT said. adding that it regretted that Hamas continues to pursue its own personal agenda at the expense of Gaza’s residents.
The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, issued an unusually sharp response on Monday, accusing Hamas of theft.
“Those who seek to gain through the deviation of materials are stealing from their own people and adding to the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza,” Mladenov said.
“The reconstruction of Gaza remains critical to ensuring its stability and I urge a rapid resolution of this matter,” he added, stating that Israel alleged that “a substantial amount [of cement bound for the private sector] had been diverted from its intended legitimate beneficiaries.
The UN is working with the Palestinians and the Israelis to resolve the situation, he said.
“The people of Gaza depend on the entry of construction material to repair and reconstruct their damaged and destroyed houses following the 2014 conflict and to enable much needed infrastructure and development projects,” Mladenov said.