Israeli authorities allowed 1,000 tons of cement paid for by Qatar to enter the Hamas-enclave of Gaza on Thursday, officials said, in the first major step towards rebuilding the territory that was damaged in Hamas's latest terror war against Israel last summer.
"Today 1,000 tons of cement paid for by Qatar entered the Gaza Strip for a project included in the scope of the reconstruction mechanism," Israel's coordinating body for government policy in the territories of Judea, Samaria and Gaza (COGAT) said in a statement, reports AFP.
"There are no fixed quantities (going in) on a daily basis. The quantities (delivered) are at the request of the Palestinian Authority in accordance with the needs of suppliers who are purchasing in Gaza," it said.
Palestinian Arab officials confirmed the entry of cement, which they said included 175 trucks brought in through the Kerem Shalom goods crossing in southern Gaza.
It was the biggest quantity of building material to come into Gaza in one go since fighting ended in August.
The influx of cement comes despite the fact that Hamas used such humanitarian aid to build an extensive network of terrorist attack tunnels into Israel, and that it has been rebuilding it with cement transferred into Gaza by Israel since the war ended.
Despite the clear evidence that Hamas is using the materials for terrorist purposes, a Palestinian Authority (PA) official revealed earlier this month that Israel had lifted a longstanding ban on the import of dual-use Portland cement into Gaza.
The move came days after documents were leaked, revealing talks between Hamas and Israel for a five-year ceasefire by which Israel would ease restrictions.
Qatar last week launched a project to build 1,000 homes to house Gazans displaced by Hamas's latest war, its third since seizing control of Gaza in 2007 after the 2005 Disengagement plan during which Israel expelled all Jews from the region.
The Gulf state last October made the biggest single pledge to rebuild Gaza, promising $1 billion of a total of $5.4 billion in international aid at a conference in Cairo. The UN last month slammed the international community for failing to make good on its promises of aid, warning of another conflict unless Gaza was rehabilitated quickly.
Israel controls goods and people movement at two of Gaza's three crossings, while Egypt controls the third.
During Operation Protective Edge last summer 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.