Jerusalem: The United Nations said on Monday that Israel has agreed to again allow imports of construction materials into Gaza after a two-month clampdown following the discovery of a tunnel dug by militants from the coastal strip into Israel.
Israel restricted items that can enter Gaza Strip since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized the territory in 2007, fearing Palestinian militants could use construction materials like metal and concrete for military purposes.
In 2010, Israel eased the restrictions to allow imports for internationally supervised projects. But in October, it halted the entry of all construction materials after discovering the concrete-lined tunnel along the border.
Israel said the tunnel was to be used by militants for attacks and abductions of Israelis a claim that Palestinian armed groups later confirmed.
Hamas-allied militants sneaked into Israel through one such tunnel in 2006, killed two Israeli soldiers and kidnapped a third, holding him hostage in Gaza for five years.
UN Mideast envoy Robert Serry said today the materials that will be imported are to be used to build UN-funded schools, housing and sanitation facilities.
"The United Nations will continue to preserve the integrity of these works through their uninterrupted and transparent implementation in accordance with agreed procedures," Serry said.
"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."
Today`s UN announcement came after talks with Israel`s Defense Ministry over concerns the materials could reach Hamas.
UN officials had pleaded with Israel to lift the restrictions, saying the lack of materials has paralyzed Gaza`s key construction industry and idled 10 percent of the workforce.