Israel allows first building shipment into Gaza in 3 years | world | Hindustan Times
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Israel allows first building shipment into Gaza in 3 years

world Updated: Apr 15, 2010 19:51 IST

Israel allowed a shipment of construction materials into the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip for the first time in three years on Thursday, according to a Palestinian official.

The six truckloads of wood and aluminium entered the coastal territory via the Kerem Shalom crossing in the south, Palestinian customs official Raed Fattuh told AFP.

"These are Palestinian goods that belong to tradesmen and have been stored at the port of Ashdod since mid-2007," Fattuh said.

Fattuh said Israel had decided "to allow shipments of wood and aluminium into Gaza every day except Friday and Saturday."

On April 4, Israel authorised the entry, for the first time in two years, of 10 trucks carrying clothing and shoes for the inhabitants of the impoverished enclave, who number about 1.5 million.

The Jewish state has sealed the territory off from all but vital aid since the Islamist Hamas seized power in June 2007, tightening sanctions imposed after the 2006 capture of an Israeli soldier.

Large amounts of clothes, appliances and other basic goods are brought in however through smuggling tunnels beneath the Gaza-Egypt border, and although prices have gone up, there are no shortages of such goods.

Last month, UN chief Ban Ki-moon toured some of the hardest-hit areas of Gaza and slammed Israel's blockade, which he said caused "unacceptable suffering."

Ban said during his visit to Gaza that Israel had approved the import of construction materials for UN projects to build 150 homes, a flour mill and a sewage treatment plant.

Israel's military said this month the decision to allow more goods into Gaza "does not mark a change in policy" towards Hamas, which is sworn to Israel's destruction and blacklisted as a terror group by Israel and the West.

"Israel will not allow the reconstruction of Gaza, which we regard as a terrorist entity because it is controlled by Hamas and the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is still held captive," an Israeli military official said.

Shalit was captured by Hamas and two smaller militant groups in a deadly cross-border raid in 2006. The Islamist group has said it will only release him in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.