Israel plans to allow 70 truckloads a day of private sector building material into Gaza

Trucks of cement, steel and concrete for private projects will be allowed into Strip for the first time since 2007.

Trucks at the Kerem Shalom Crossing in Gaza 390 (R) (photo credit: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters)
Trucks at the Kerem Shalom Crossing in Gaza 390 (R)
(photo credit: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters)
Israel intends to significantly increase the amount of building material for private sector projects allowed into the Gaza Strip from 20 truckloads a day to 70, according to the nonprofit group Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement.
Beginning on Sunday, for the first time since 2007, steel and cement will be able to enter Gaza for private sector projects, according to Gisha’s executive director Sari Bashi.
The move follows a massive crackdown by the Egyptian military on the smuggling from Egypt via the tunnels near Rafah, including construction material.
Bashi estimated that about 190 truckloads a day of building material had entered Gaza through the Rafah tunnels, so that the new easement, while welcomed, did not make up the shortfall of building material in Gaza.
In 2007, after Hamas took control of Gaza in a violent coup, Israel banned the entry of building material into the Strip, except in limited quantities for international projects, fearing the materials posed a security risk.
In 2010, the IDF significantly increased the amount of building material for international projects, Bashi said. Then, in November 2012, after Operation Pillar of Defense, it allowed 20 truckloads of gravel a day into Gaza for the private sector.
According to Gisha, as of Sunday, the daily entry limit for the private sector will now be 40 truckloads of gravel, 20 of cement and 10 of steel.
Bashi said that in general she was concerned the Kerem Shalom crossing, through which trucks now travel from Israel into Gaza, does not have the capacity to handle the increased volume of goods that will need to enter the strip from Israel as the result of the closure of the Rafah tunnels.
The office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories could not be reached for comment on Thursday night.
With the tunnels from Egypt shut, prices for consumer items have risen in the enclave.
Cheap Egyptian fuel is in short supply, with hours-long lines each day at Gaza gas stations.
Israeli fuel is available – at double the price of the Egyptian product.
Separately, Egypt partially reopened its border crossing with the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, a week after it was closed in response to a deadly attack on an Egyptian military headquarters near the frontier.
Witnesses said two buses took 100 passengers into Egypt through the Rafah crossing, while hundreds of other people waited outside the gates for a chance to enter Egypt.
Palestinian Authority officials said Cairo agreed to open the crossing for four hours on Wednesday and Thursday at PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s request, to address the humanitarian needs of patients seeking treatment in Egypt and of students studying there.
Since Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi was forced from office in July, Cairo has shut Rafah three times.
Thousands of Palestinians have been stranded in the Gaza Strip for weeks. When Rafah has been open, Egypt has limited the number of passengers allowed through each day to 300, compared with 1,200 before Morsi was removed.
Egyptian authorities last shut Rafah a week ago after assailants crashed two explosive-laden cars into a security building adjacent to the border zone, killing six Egyptian soldiers. The lawless Sinai Peninsula has seen frequent battles between the Egyptian military and Islamist gunmen.
Egyptian officials have accused Hamas of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood in Sinai – an allegation the Palestinian group denies – and say restrictions at Rafah were linked to the security situation in the peninsula.
Reuters contributed to this story.