(photo credit: AP [file])
The Defense Ministry is postponing the delivery of cement to the Gaza Strip out of fear that Hamas will get its hands on the material and use it to rebuild its military infrastructure damaged during Operation Cast Lead, officials said on Sunday.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak was reconsidering the delivery of the cement after, according to IDF Southern Command intelligence, cement that was transferred for the renovation of a British War Cemetery in Gaza earlier this month was partially confiscated by Hamas.
The cemetery contains graves of British and other foreign soldiers who were killed in the region during World War I.
"Hamas is in desperate need of cement to rebuild its bunker systems and bases," one official explained. "This is why it is so complicated to transfer cement to Gaza even if it is intended for civilian purposes."
In late July, Barak decided to permit a one-time transfer of more than 300 tons of cement to rebuild a damaged flour mill, a sewage treatment facility and the British cemetery. Israeli representatives had met with representatives from different international organizations that operate in Gaza, such as UNRWA and the World Bank, to coordinate the transfer.
The IDF sources said that Hamas's seizure of part of the cement raised a red flag for additional transfers. It was also, one official said, a "blatant cynical use of humanitarian aid that is meant to be used to help the poor people of Gaza but is instead used by Hamas for its military infrastructure."
Last week, the Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement NGO issued a report slamming Israel for preventing the reconstruction of Gaza by restricting the supply of cement, water, sanitation and health care and electricity. The shortage of cement has forced many Palestinians to use mud and clay bricks to rebuild damaged structures.