modern gaza city

Building materials such as cement, gravel and metal rods are being allowed back into Gaza after having been effectively blocked by Israel for most of the past five years, the Washington Post reports.

Israel’s military said on Monday allowing shipments into the Gaza Strip represents the country’s first key concession under the ceasefire agreement which ended eight days of fighting in November, and would persist as long as calm remained on the Israel-Gaza border.

Since 2007, Israel has imposed a wide-ranging embargo on Gaza after Hamas seized control, with importation of a number of key building materials being stopped amid fears these could be used for military purposes or weapons construction. The ban was heavily criticized by many over concerns about depriving those in Gaza of the materials needed for infrastructure and worries that the ban would cripple the Strip’s impoverished economy.

modern gaza city

Israeli military spokesman Major Guy Inbar said the lifting of the ban is effectively permanent and will last as long as the ceasefire holds.

“The longer the calm persists, the more we’ll weigh additional easings of restrictions that will benefit the private sector,” Inbar was quoted as saying, adding that cross border traffic in building materials trade could expand to up to 20 truckloads per day depending on demand.

Inbar added that, in addition to the opening of the border for imported materials,  the current ban on exports – once the lifeblood of Gaza’s economy – might also be relaxed depending upon the continuation of the ceasefire.

Hamas wants Israel to end the blockade but Israel is demanding an end to arms smuggling in return.

modern gaza city

While depriving Gaza of essential materials for building and infrastructure, the ban on construction products has led to some in Gaza turning to creative solutions in order to work around the problem.

In recent years, according to a report in the December edition of National Geographic, a number of concrete block factories have sprung up within the Gaza strip. The raw material used in the factory was more than half a million tonnes of rubble left by an Israeli military campaign early last decade to destroy thousands of homes along the Gaza and Egypt border which harboured tunnels used for arms trafficking as well as importation of ordinary commercial products.

By Andrew Heaton