Israel allows shipment following a special request by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
By HERB KEINON
In response to a special request by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Israel allowed some 30 tons of building material into the Gaza Strip last Thursday to help rebuild a hospital damaged in the fighting there in 2009.Israel has been extremely reluctant to let concrete and building materials into the region since the end of Operation Cast Lead in January 2009 because of the concern it would be diverted by Hamas to rebuild factories manufacturing Kassam rockets.The French, however, have been very persistent in seeking permission to reconstruct the intensive care unit in the Al Quds hospital in Gaza, and last November, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner signed an agreement to allocate some two million euro for the project.In rare words of praise for Israeli actions connected to the Gaza Strip, the French Foreign Ministry issued a statement Friday “welcoming” the passage of the trucks carrying the material, and saying that this would be the first of a number of convoys bringing in the material.The communiqué mentioned that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu agreed to the project to refurbish the hospital at the specific request of Sarkozy.Israeli officials said they were confident of French assurances and the safeguards in place to ensure that the construction material makes its way to the hospital, and is not diverted elsewhere.One diplomatic source raised the possibility that the timing of the passage of the convoy was a payback to Sarkozy for helping Israel gain entrance last week into the OECD. One of the countries that the source said needed some pressure to okay Israel’s entrance into the organization was Belgium, whose Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere arrived Sunday evening for the first visit by a Belgian foreign minister since 2007.Belgium is considered one of the more critical countries of Israel inside the EU. Vanackere will hold meetings both in Jerusalem and with PA leaders in Ramallah during his two-day visit.
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