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Gaza cement deliveries resume after Israel lifts ban

By JT - May 23,2016 - Last updated at May 23,2016

Palestinian workers stand on a truck carrying bags of cement after it entered the southern Gaza Strip from Israel through the Kerem Shalom crossing in Rafah on Monday (AFP photo)

AMMAN — Private cement deliveries to the Gaza Strip resumed on Monday after Israel lifted a six-week ban it imposed over an alleged diversion of materials by an official in the Palestinian territory.

Israel imposed the ban in early April in the territory run by the Palestinian group Hamas, which is still rebuilding after an Israeli 50-day offensive on Gaza in 2014.

Israel claims that Gazans use cement to rebuild tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza Strip border and to rebuild military infrastructure. 

The ban affected private providers, mainly Qatar, a major donor to Gazan reconstruction, and the United Nations who were still able to bring in cement to Gaza, despite an Israeli blockade that has been in place for nearly a decade.

Raed Fattouh, who oversees the entry of goods into the Gaza Strip, said private deliveries had resumed for the first time since April 3, according to the Agence France Presse.

Robert Piper, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, confirmed that more than 90 trucks entered Gaza on Monday, calling it a "decent return" close to levels towards the beginning of the year.

Israel said late on Sunday that it was lifting the ban "in accordance with the security assessment and the understandings reached with the international community".

It had imposed the ban after accusing Imad Al Baz, deputy director of the Hamas economy ministry, of diverting supplies, which he denied.

Israel restricts the entry of goods into Gaza out of fears they will be used to make weapons or build tunnels that can be used for attacks while Gazans say they desperately need the commodity for reconstruction purposes.

More than 20,000 homes were reduced to rubble in the strip during the 2014 war.

Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008.

UN officials point out that cement deliveries are vital to Gaza's reconstruction and pushed for the ban to be lifted.

Nickolay Mladenov, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, welcomed Israel's decision to lift the ban.

 

"It is critical for the security of both Palestinians and Israelis that Gaza remains calm and hope is restored to its people," he said.

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