Coca-Cola began construction on its first plant in Gaza on Monday, as the Defense Ministry’s coordinator of government activities in the territories (COGAT) allowed nine trucks with production equipment to enter the coastal enclave.The factory, which will take three years to build at a cost of $20 million, will stand in the Karni industrial zone, near Kibbutz Nahal Oz, and is expected to initially employ 120 people, but eventually create 1,000 jobs, including those that sprout up indirectly around the factory. COGAT approved the plant, which will compete with an existing Pepsi plant, before last summer’s war with Hamas in Gaza. The equipment trucks originated in Jordan and entered Israel through the Rabin/Wadi Araba crossing and Gaza through the southern Kerem Shalom crossing.The man behind the soda pop venture in Gaza is Palestinian entrepreneur Zahi Khouri, a founder and the chairman of the Ramallah-based National Beverage Company, which is solely licensed for Coca-Cola in the West Bank.According to Khouri, it makes more financial and environmental sense to produce and bottle the product they sell to Gazans in the Strip because bottles can be recycled and reused.The first phase, which will become operational in the third quarter of 2015, will focus on carbonated beverages, while the second, pegged for late 2016 or early 2017, will expand to juices, water and other noncarbonated products.The Coca-Cola Co. invested $25m. into its Palestinian business in the past five years, according to the National Beverage Company. It also has sponsored a clean water project in Gaza with Mercy Corp. and featured soccer fans from Palestine in a viral World Cup promotion over the summer.