Yaalon: No Reconstruction While Hamas Builds Tunnels

YERUSHALAYIM (Hamodia Staff) - Plans for reconstruction of the Gaza Strip will not move forward while Hamas rebuilds its terror tunnels, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“We [Israel] want the residents of Gaza to live in dignity and prosperity, rebuild their homes and return to normal life. But we are very worried. Just yesterday, Hamas representatives said they intend to reconstruct the infiltration tunnels, instead of rebuilding the homes of Gaza’s residents,” Yaalon told Ban during a meeting at the latter’s office in New York on Monday.

Last week, Israel permitted — for the first time in a year — truckloads of cement and steel into the Gaza Strip to repair damage to some 60,000 homes resulting from the fighting with Hamas.

The United Nations brokered an agreement with Israel and the Palestinian Authority to establish a monitoring mechanism to ensure that building material is not diverted for use in rebuilding the tunnels. That mechanism went into operation during Ban’s visit to Gaza last Tuesday.

Yaalon reiterated that the lifting of restrictions on building materials was for civilian purposes only, and that their use for rearming Hamas would not be tolerated.

“It’s in our interest for the residents of Gaza to improve their economic situation and their lives, but it must be clear that the funds and equipment are not used for terrorism; therefore we are closely monitoring all of the developments,” Yaalon said.