Cement trucks enter Kerem Shalom crossing int
Cement trucks enter Kerem Shalom crossing int Flash 90

Israel is to allow construction materials for UN projects back into Gaza after reaching an agreement with the world body, UN officials confirmed Monday, confirming statements made by a senior PA official on Sunday.

The ban on building materials was put in place on October 13 after troops discovered a sophisticated "terror tunnel" running under the Israel-Gaza border, built with the aim of perpetrating attacks against Israeli civilians in nearby communities.  

After the tunnel was destroyed, a Hamas spokesman issued a chilling warning that the Islamist group would continue to target Israelis in "your homes, your schools, your positions and your strongholds". 

"An agreement over the means of controlling and checking the import of these materials - which will be used solely for UN projects in the Gaza Strip - was reached on Monday and will go into force on Tuesday," said a spokesman for COGAT, the Defense Ministry unit responsible for coordinating civilian affairs in Judea and Samaria, and with the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

He said the deal, which was agreed by UN peace envoy Robert Serry and COGAT head Major General Eitan Dangot, would ensure the materials only reached UN bodies and did not find their way to Gaza's ruling Hamas movement or terrorists allied with it.  

But the agreement did not apply to the import of steel and cement for private use, which Israel had permitted in September for the first time since 2007, for fear such materials would be used to build tunnels and fortify Hamas positions.    

The move was confirmed by Serry's office, which said it would allow the implementation of "critical construction projects" such as schools, social housing and water and sanitation facilities, worth some $500 million (364 million euros).  

"The situation in Gaza remains concerning and the United Nations is engaged with relevant parties in trying to address the most urgent issues such as energy, water and private sector construction," said a UN statement which also addressed the enclave's ongoing energy crisis.  

"The United Nations hopes that a solution will be found quickly to the particularly pressing energy situation," it said, calling for potential contributors to step forward "urgently and decisively".  

Gaza has been living through the worst fuel crisis in its history, causing power cuts of up to 16 hours per day, and creating major problems for hospitals, water and sanitation plants. On November 1 Hamas's energy authority announced Gaza's sole power plant had run out of fuel.

Officials in Gaza have laid the blame on the Egyptian government, which has cracked down on the network of smuggling tunnels across the Egyptian border, as well as the Palestinian Authority, which Hamas says has leveled prohibited taxes on fuels imported from Israel.

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