Israel on Sunday formally halted all cement deliveries into the blockaded Gaza Strip, according to a Palestinian official.
Raed Fattouh, head of the Palestinian Commission to Coordinate the Entry of Goods into the Gaza Strip, said the Israeli authorities had "officially and completely" halted all cement consignments to Gaza’s private sector.
"The Israeli authorities informed us of their decision to stop all cement deliveries to Gaza as of Sunday, without providing any reason for the move," Fattouh said.
He went on to note, however, that the decision did not apply to limited quantities of cement supplied to projects being carried out in Gaza by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
The Israeli authorities, for their part, have yet to officially comment on Fattouh’s assertions.
The Israeli media, however, has recently quoted Israeli officials as saying that Hamas -- the Palestinian resistance group that has governed the Gaza Strip since 2007 -- was routinely appropriating imported cement for its own purposes.
Gaza’s Hamas-run Economy Ministry, meanwhile, denounced the decision, warning of the move’s likely repercussions on the reconstruction of the war-battered strip, which is still recovering from a devastating 2014 Israeli military onslaught.
The ministry added that the amounts of cement currently entering Gaza via the Kerem Shalom border crossing -- which links Egypt, Israel and the Gaza Strip -- had failed to meet the minimum requirements of the strip’s roughly 1.9 million inhabitants.
The ministry went on to note that it had appealed to the UN and other international institutions to pressure Israel to reverse its decision.
Since Hamas assumed governance of the strip in 2007, the Israeli authorities have tightly restricted the import of goods into the territory, leading to a severe shortage of cement and other building materials.
Under the terms of a cease-fire agreement that ended the 2014 conflict, all building materials that enter the strip must only be used to rebuild civilian infrastructure.
In July and August of 2014, Israel waged a 51-day onslaught against the Hamas-run enclave with the stated aim of staunching rocket-fire from Gaza.
During the conflict, more than 2,150 Palestinians in Gaza were killed -- the vast majority of them civilians -- and broad swathes of infrastructure destroyed.
By Ola Attallah
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