Construction Materials Start to Flow Into Gaza

EL-ARISH, Egypt (AP) -
A Hamas agent checks a truck loaded with gravel at the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip, December 30. (REUTERS)
A Hamas agent checks a truck loaded with gravel at the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip, December 30. (REUTERS)

Thousands of tons of building materials such as cement and steel began crossing into the Gaza Strip over the weekend, Egyptian and Palestinian officials said, temporarily easing a five-year-old blockade on the coastal territory.

An Egyptian security official said shipment was made in consultation with Israeli officials, who were in Cairo Thursday to discuss security in the Sinai Peninsula and the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire agreed upon by Hamas and Israel last month.

Israel agreed to the easement of the blockade as part of the ceasefire arrangement.

The director of Gaza’s border authority, Maher Abu Sabha, confirmed to The Associated Press that a total of 20 trucks carrying materials were expected to arrive in the coastal strip last weekend through the Rafah border crossing.

Qatar is paying for the raw materials that were bought in Egypt, the official added.

The tiny oil-rich Gulf country has pledged 24 projects worth some $425 million in the Gaza Strip to improve crumbling housing, schools, a hospital and roads.

New Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, of Hamas’s parent group, the Muslim Brotherhood, has vowed not to abandon the Palestinians. Unlike Mubarak in late 2008, Morsi kept the border crossing with the Gaza Strip open for movement of people and humanitarian supplies during Operation Pillar of Defense in November. Gaza has yet to fully recover from the two offensives, which left buildings, homes and schools in rubble.