Israel to allow construction materials into Gaza

AP News
Posted: Nov 16, 2011 1:59 PM
Israel to allow construction materials into Gaza

Israel allowed the first truckloads of a rare shipment of construction materials into Gaza on Wednesday to allow the reconstruction of 10 privately owned factories, the Israeli military and Palestinian officials said.

Until now only international projects have been allowed to import such materials, which Israel restricts because of concerns they could be used by Gaza militants who regularly launch rockets at Israeli towns.

Hamas-ruled Gaza is subject to an Israeli and Egyptian blockade that includes restrictions on the movement of goods and people.

In Gaza, Palestinian government coordinator Raed Fattouh said the first two trucks with materials entered Wednesday. The military says several dozen trucks will be allowed in.

The factories being rebuilt were destroyed or damaged in fighting in 2009, when Israel invaded to try to stop near-daily rocket salvos.

Fattouh said the coming weeks would also see the export of agricultural products and several shipments of Gaza-made furniture in exceptions to the blockade. Permission was negotiated with Israel and international mediators. Israel significantly eased limits on imports last year but kept building materials on its list of restrictions.

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Sari Bashi of the Israeli human rights group Gisha, which monitors the Gaza blockade, said those moves were too little to alleviate the economic distress in the Palestinian territory.

"By banning Gaza residents from selling goods to Israel and the West Bank, Israel is preventing economic recovery for reasons that have nothing to do with security," she said.

Hamas, an Iran-backed militant group, is considered a terror organization by Israel, the U.S. and the European Union. It has ruled Gaza since 2007.