The United Nations has brokered an Israeli-Palestinian deal on imports of construction materials to Gaza to ensure they will not be diverted by Hamas terrorists, a UN envoy said Tuesday.
The agreement on monitoring the supply of materials "must get up and running without delay," said Robert Serry, the UN envoy for the Middle East.
The recent 50-day war between Israel and Gazan terrorists - who embedded much of their infrastructure and military positions within Gaza's built-up civilian areas - resulted in massive damage to parts of the Gaza Strip.
Serry described the destruction in Gaza as "truly shocking," with some 18,000 houses flattened or severely damaged, 65,000 local Arab residents in UN-run shelters and 100,000 homeless. He called for quick action on reconstruction as a "signal of hope to the people of Gaza."
"The crisis in Gaza is far from over and the window of opportunity to address critical needs and stabilize the situation is short," Serry warned. He appealed for action to "change fundamentally the dynamics in Gaza," warning that "if we do not, Gaza could implode - or, yet again, explode - possibly with a new and even more devastating round of violence."
Palestinians have called for building materials to be allowed into the Hamas-run territory, but Israel has repeatedly voiced concerns that such materials would be siphoned off by Hamas and other terrorist groups for military purposes.
Indeed, the enormous network of Hamas and Islamic Jihad tunnels inside Gaza, as well as "terror-tunnels" into Israel which were discovered and destroyed by the IDF during Operation Protective Edge, was built using thousands of tons of concrete and other material allowed into Gaza for "civilian" uses.
Earlier on Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon outlined some of the concessions Israel had granted to Hamas as part of the recent ceasefire agreement to end the fighting, including the limited passage of construction material into Gaza.
"They are talking about bringing in forces from the regime of Abu Mazen (Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas - ed.) to the Rafah Crossing (to Sinai) to open it, and if they consider the possibility of putting forces of (his) regime also in the Palestinian side of the Erez Crossing instead of Hamas we will be for it," he said.
"Building materials and reconstruction equipment will enter the Gaza Strip through a mechanism that Coordinator of the Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai is building, together the with UN envoy Robert Serry and the Palestinian Authority," Ya'alon added.
But the defense minister warned that "if those materials are transferred to building tunnels - the transfer will stop immediately."