Israel has eased its blockade of the Gaza Strip to permit private builders to bring construction materials into the Palestinian territory for the first time since Hamas took power in 2007, Haaretz reported.
While international aid agencies have been allowed to bring in construction materials, Israel has stopped private builders from trucking in cement, gravel or metal rods out of fear that they could be used by Gaza militants to build barriers or weapons, the Associated Press reported.
Twenty truckloads of gravel entered Gaza today, according to Haaretz.
The building materials blockade was eased as a concession to Hamas following a cease-fire that ended eight days of clashes between Israel and Gaza militants, Haraatz reported.
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"The longer the calm persists, the more we'll weigh additional easings of restrictions that will benefit the private sector," Maj. Guy Inbar, an Israeli military spokesman, told the AP.
According to the AP:
A Hamas official said the amount sent so far is "cosmetic," and Gaza economists say it would take years of round-the-clock shipments to even make a dent in the gap left by five years of blockade.
Gaza Strip residents would also like to see the lifting of a near-ban on exports, which has contributed to an unemployment rate of about one-third, and the ending of a naval blockade of the territory, the AP reported.