Israel allows gravel into Gaza for first time since Hamas takeover
The gravel shipment was part of the cease-fire deal brokered between Israel and Gaza last month, and may be followed with additional building materials.
A Palestinian official with knowledge of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire that ended eight days of fighting last month between¬†Israel¬†and¬†Gaza¬†militants said the move had been expected as part of the deal.
"This is the first time gravel has been allowed into¬†Gaza¬†for the Palestinian private sector since the blockade," said¬†Raed Fattouh, the Palestinian official overseeing the shipment of 20 truckloads of the material.
Israel¬†tightened the blockade after¬†Hamas, an Islamist group that refuses to recognise the Jewish state, took power five years ago. But under international pressure,¬†Israel¬†began to ease the restrictions in 2010 and has allowed international aid agencies to import construction material.
The gravel was transferred a day after¬†Egypt¬†allowed building material into¬†Gaza¬†through its Rafah crossing, departing from a six-year ban. It was part of a shipment donated by the Gulf Arab state of¬†Qatar, which has pledged $400 million to finance reconstruction.
Gaza¬†economists say nearly 70 percent of the enclave's commercial needs ‚Äď including building material and fuel ‚Äď were being met through shipments via¬†Israel¬†and a network of smuggling tunnels running under the Egyptian border.
One Palestinian official said Israeli counterparts had promised "other building items" would be allowed into¬†Gaza¬†in the coming days.
"Israel¬†has promised to ease the blockade more if the truce continues to hold," said the official, who asked not to be identified.
"They can have much more if they would like to," he said.