Israel Allows Building Supplies to Enter Gaza Again

EDITED BY KALAHAN DENG

The Israeli military authorities on Monday allowed building supplies to start flowing into Gaza again, lifting a suspension that had blocked work for more than a month on thousands of houses destroyed in the 2014 summer war.

Israel had suspended deliveries on April 4 after accusing Emad al-Baz, an official in Gaza’s economic ministry, of diverting the supplies away from the work they were earmarked for: rebuilding private citizens’ homes. Other projects, like those overseen by the United Nations, were not affected by the suspension.

About 90 truckloads of cement were expected to cross into Gaza on Monday, according to the office of the special coordinator for the peace process. That is around the average amount that had entered daily before the suspension, according to figures provided by the office.

The suspension halted work on 5,095 houses and apartments, out of about 17,800 that were made uninhabitable during the war, which killed more than 2,100 Palestinians and 70 Israelis.

About 4,065 damaged or destroyed homes have been rebuilt, according to United Nations figures.

The plodding pace of reconstruction for the most severely damaged houses has become a pressing matter for Palestinians. Many of the poorest displaced families languish in trailers and shacks, waiting to rebuild, and thousands of others are crammed into rental apartments.

The suspension of deliveries prompted criticism of Hamas, the militant group that dominates Gaza, by some Palestinians, who faulted it for constructing attack tunnels into Israel at a time when they could not rebuild their homes.

Under a system set up after the 2014 war, Israel allows building supplies into Gaza for civilian use, in a process overseen by the United Nations that also involves the Western-backed Palestinian Authority and the Hamas-dominated Gaza administration.

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Before the suspension was lifted, Naji Sarhan, the deputy housing minister in Gaza, had denied that Hamas was diverting cement and other materials meant for residential reconstruction. He said that vendors were selling the supplies on the black market, and that Mr. Baz had confiscated illegally sold materials.

Even so, the suspension was not lifted until the Gaza government had given back the supplies it was accused of diverting and had removed Mr. Baz from his post, according to a statement by the Israeli government agency that deals with civil affairs in the Palestinian territories.

Mr. Sarhan wrote in an email that the resumption was “good news for the people of Gaza.”

“Gaza is in need for more than a million tons of cement,” he said. It would take “years” for the territory to be reconstructed, he said, even if cement came in uninterrupted.

The United Nations promised to station inspectors on the Palestinian side of a Gaza border crossing to keep a closer eye on incoming supplies, the Israeli statement said.

“All sides need to ensure that cement is delivered according to agreed lists and is used solely for civilian purposes,” Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said in a statement. “Individuals or groups seeking to benefit from the deviation of construction materials — for corruption or other reasons — selfishly compound the suffering of their own people and sow the seeds of future violence.”

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