The Gaza Strip is to receive its first cement shipment in a year as Israel prepared to reopen border crossings.
Israel prepares to reopen Gaza crossing
The Gaza Strip was to receive its first cement shipment in a year today as Israel prepared to reopen border crossings it had shut down after militant rocket attacks breached a truce. The Hamas rulers of the Palestinian territory and the Israeli authorities said five tonnes of cement would be shipped to Gaza as Israel eased its blockade. "They will be delivered in the course of the day," said Peter Lerner, the Israeli military spokesman.
He and Hamas officials said the shipment would mark the first time in one year that cement is being allowed into the territory. Israel, which blacklists Hamas as a terror group, imposed a tight embargo after the militants violently seized power in the densely-populated coastal strip more than a year ago. As part of an Egyptian-mediated truce deal, Israel has agreed to gradually ease the embargo but kept the border crossings closed on most days since the ceasefire went into effect on June 19 in retaliation for rocket attacks.
Today it was expected to reopen the three crossings used to deliver fuel, grain and other basic goods to Gaza. A total of about 150 truckloads were expected to be shipped into Gaza, Mr Lerner said. Before the truce an average of 60 truckloads made their way into Gaza where the majority of the 1.5 million population rely on foreign aid. The Rafah crossing with Egypt, the only one that bypasses Israel, was also opened for a second day to allow 350 Palestinians, including people in need of medical care, to leave the Gaza Strip, officials said.
Hamas has insisted it is respecting the truce and trying to prevent other armed groups from firing rockets at southern Israel. The Hamas authorities have vowed to arrest anyone who carries out such attacks. Palestinians and UN officials have said Israeli soldiers had also violated the truce, firing shots across the border into Gaza several times, wounding at least two people. *AFP