Israel allowed dozens of truckloads of construction materials into the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, easing a tight blockade it has maintained on the Hamas-ruled territory since an 11-day war last May.
The imports came during a tense period in which Hamas terrorists have launched incendiary balloons into Israel, sparking a number of wildfires across the border, and staged a series of sometimes violent demonstrations along the separation fence with Israel.
Despite the tensions, Israeli officials this week allowed the entry of the badly needed building materials for Gaza’s private sector in a step that may help calm the situation.
Bassam Ghabin, director of the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom cargo crossing, said that 30 truckloads of cement, 120 trucks of gravel and 15 trucks of steel entered Gaza on Tuesday. He said the materials began entering on Monday, and that the crossing was operating almost at the same capacity as before the war.
An Israeli security official, speaking on condition of anonymity under policy guidelines, confirmed that building materials had entered Gaza. He had no specific details, but said they came under previously announced government decisions.
In recent weeks, COGAT, the Israeli defense body responsible for Palestinian civilian issues, said it was planning to allow more goods into Gaza if the security situation stabilized. Last week, it said it would “expand the entry of goods and equipment for international civilian projects in the Gaza Strip.”
Later on Tuesday, Hamas held another nighttime demonstration along the Israeli border to call for a lifting of the blockade. Gaza health officials said three Palestinians were lightly wounded by Israeli gunfire.
Egyptian mediators have been trying to broker a longer-term cease-fire. But Israel has demanded the return of the remains of two dead Israeli soldiers and freedom of two Israeli civilians in Hamas captivity as a condition for allowing major reconstruction.
Reporting by AP