For the first time since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2007, Israel has decided to let construction materials to enter Gaza for use by the private sector. The decision is based on the dialogue with Egypt following the last Israel-Gaza conflict and the ensuing calm, Israeli spokesman Maj. Guy Inbar told The Mideast Update in an interview. Egypt acts as a mediator between Israel and Hamas and helped establish the ceasefire between them in November.
Previously, construction materials were only allowed into Gaza for projects implemented by the international community. Aside from the construction materials, 60 trucks and buses were also allowed into Gaza for use by the private sector as part of the latest arrangement. Israel is considering further easing of restrictions on items allowed into Gaza as well.
“This easing is due especially to the calm since the last operation. If the calm will continue, Israel will consider extra easings as well,” Inbar, spokesman for the Coordination of Government Activities in Territories (COGAT), said in Monday’s interview.
The new Gaza approach comes after November’s “Operation Pillar of Defense”, in which Israel struck 1000 targets in Gaza and killed Hamas’ top military commander in an effort to re-establish a level of calm following an increase in Gaza attacks. Hamas launched 1000 rockets at Israel during the fight, including ones capable of reaching areas around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
The easing of restrictions on Gaza following the mediated ceasefire is apparently still being discussed. According to the Ma’an News Agency, an official Hamas legal team visited Egypt last Saturday to follow-up on the talks. Ma’an said that Hamas wants to lift the naval and land blockade and make it easier for Palestinians to come and go from the Strip.
The blockade—which is primarily enforced by Israel but has been supplemented by the Egyptian-controlled border with Gaza as well—is in place largely to prevent the influx of weapons into Gaza and the entrance and exit of terrorists to and from the coastal enclave. Ma’an said that Israel wants Egypt to play a role in halting the flow of smuggled weapons into Gaza.
Israeli Maj. Inbar told The Mideast Update that the new aggregate construction materials being delivered for the Gaza private sector amounts to an additional 20 truckloads per day.
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, January 2, 2012)