Israel has approved the transfer of construction material to the Gaza Strip for
a limited number of UN projects, as of Tuesday.
The decision came
following a request by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to Defense Minister
Moshe Ya’alon last week, who asked that the material be let in for the
construction of UNRWA schools.
The trucks that will head to Gaza on
Tuesday, mark the first entry of cement and gravel through the Kerem Shalom
Crossing, since October 13.
Israel cancelled the transfer of construction
material to the Strip, after discovering a 1.7 km. long attack tunnel
stretching from Khan Younis into Israel, which was built by Hamas, using Israeli
cement meant for the Gazan civilian construction industry.
It was the
third terrorism tunnel discovered this year.
A security source told The
Jerusalem Post that following the request by Ban-Ki Moon, the defense minister
ordered Maj.-Gen. Eitan Dangot, Coordinator of government activities in the
Territories, to prepare a mechanism for the supervision of the material, and to
ensure that it does not end up falling into the wrong hands.
a series of planning meetings, Dangot presented the classified plan to Ya’alon,
who approved it, the source said.
The building material, including cement
and iron, is intended only for the UN’s projects, the source said.
week, Ya’alon revealed that he agreed to Ban-Ki Moon’s request, saying that he
agreed on two conditions, “That the UN condemns the use of cement by Hamas for
attack tunnels,” and that a UN representative tells Israel how much cement is
needed exactly for the project, while committing the organization to ensuring
that the concrete does not reach Hamas for terrorist uses.
remarks, Ya’alon said, “There is no siege. We’re the only party that cares about
the residents of Gaza, apparently, as Egypt blocked the border, and the PA isn’t
interested – it has other considerations.”
Israel is the only party that
supplies Gaza with most of its electricity and water needs, and allows in goods
daily through the Kerem Hashalom crossing, with the exception of cement and
dual-use products that can be used to manufacture rockets and missiles, Ya’alon
Robert Serry, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace
process, said the UN was pushing to build schools, social housing, water and
sanitation facilities in Gaza, worth $500 m.
“The UN will continue to
preserve the integrity of these works through their uninterrupted and
transparent implementation in accordance with agreed procedures,” he
A UN source said it had been in the midst of 25 UN construction
projects in Gaza when Israel halted the transfer of building
The dialogue between the UN and COGAT over the completion of
these projects has now been resumed, said the source.
Sari Bashi, the
executive director for Legal Center for Freedom and Movement (GISHA), explained
that in the second quarter of 2013, Gaza’s construction industry made up for 27
percent of its GDP.
Some 70,000 people in Gaza are dependent on the
construction industry for their livelihood, Bashi said.
to halt building material to the strip in October, coupled with Egypt’s
crackdown on the smuggling tunnels by Rafah, hit the construction industry hard,
causing a loss of 20,000 jobs, Bashi said.
She said that the situation
had been eased somewhat by an Egyptian decision last month to allow 500
truckloads of building material into Gaza for Qatari financed humanitarian
For security reasons Israel had banned building material from
heading into Gaza through its crossing in 2007, after Hamas’s violent coup over
Fatah in the strip.
Bashi said that in 2010 Israel relaxed its policy
slightly to allow cement and gravel into Gaza for international
Only in December 2012, did it begin to allow building material
into Gaza for the private sector, she said. From September through October 13,
2013, Israel had allowed 70 truckloads of building material a day into Gaza.