Gazan Arabs smuggle cement through tunnels (illustration)
Gazan Arabs smuggle cement through tunnels (illustration)Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90

Israel has told the United Nations that it will suspend private imports of cement in Gaza after some of the supplies were diverted, a UN spokesman said Monday.

UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov is working with Israeli and Palestinian authorities to try to resolve the issue.

"Anyone who seeks to gain by deviating construction material in Gaza is stealing from its own people and adding to the suffering of the people of Gaza," Mladenov said.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the decision could lead to further halts of imports to Gaza, which is ruled by the Hamas terrorist group.

The UN condemnation of Gaza is a rare example of criticism by the world body of the terror enclave, where Hamas has long exploited its own civilians so as to harm Israel's image.

Cement in particular has been freely siphoned off by Hamas from world donors seeking to rebuild Gaza after the terror group's latest war against Israel in 2014, as the terrorists use cement to construct terror facilities and attack tunnels breaching under the border into Israel.

Hamas has long been rebuilding its terror tunnel network with cement transferred into Gaza by Israel since Operation Protective Edge ended in the summer of 2014.

Despite that, in early 2015 a Palestinian Authority (PA) official revealed that Israel had lifted a longstanding ban on the import of dual-use Portland cement into Gaza.

During Operation Protective Edge the IDF destroyed over 30 terror tunnels leading into Israel, with each tunnel costing Hamas roughly $3 million to build.

In every Hamas terror tunnel, the IDF stated that there were enough building materials to build 86 homes; seven mosques; six schools; or nineteen medical clinics.

Since the war, Hamas has cynically abused the influx of humanitarian materials to work on rebuilding its terror tunnels, with the IDF estimating that the group is focusing its efforts on one major tunnel leading deep into Israeli territory. Over 1,000 Hamas terrorists are said to be working on the tunnel.

AFP contributed to this report.