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Israel allows 1,000 tonnes of cement for Gaza reconstruction

GAZA CITY: Israeli authorities allowed 1,000 tonnes of cement paid for by Qatar to enter the devastated Gaza Strip on Thursday, officials said, in the first serious step towards rebuilding the territory.

A 50-day war last summer between Israel and Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the Palestinian territory, decimated entire neighbourhoods across Gaza and left 100,000 people homeless.

The international community has warned that without serious and immediate reconstruction efforts, another conflict is just around the corner.

“Today 1,000 tonnes of cement paid for by Qatar entered the Gaza Strip for a project included in the scope of the reconstruction mechanism,” Israel’s coordinating body for government policy in the Palestinian territories (COGAT) said in a statement.

“There are no fixed quantities (going in) on a daily basis. The quantities (delivered) are at the request of the Palestinian Authority in accordance with the needs of suppliers who are purchasing in Gaza,” it said.

Palestinian officials confirmed the entry of cement, which they said  175 trucks brought in through the Kerem Shalom goods crossing in southern Gaza.

It was the biggest quantity of building material to come into Gaza in one go since fighting ended in August.

Palestinian officials say the same quantity will need to enter Gaza each day in order to repair damage within three years.

Qatar last week launched a project to built 1,000 homes to house displaced Gazans.

The Gulf state in October made the biggest single pledge to rebuild Gaza, promising $1 billion of a total of $5.4 billion in international aid at a conference in Cairo.

The July-August war killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and 73 people on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers.

The UN last month slammed the international community for failing to make good on its promises of aid, warning of another conflict unless Gaza was rehabilitated quickly.

Israel controls goods and people movement at two of Gaza’s three crossings, while Egypt controls the third. – AFP

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