For the first time in five years, Israel on Sunday allowed 20 truckloads of building materials into Gaza for use by the private sector, according to Israeli and Palestinian officials. One of the first tangible concessions under a cease-fire deal reached after eight days of intensive fighting in November, it signaled a shift in Israel’s approach to the Palestinian enclave.
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Israeli officials said that construction materials would now be allowed in on a daily basis via the Kerem Shalom crossing on Israel’s border with Gaza.
The shipment on Sunday came in addition to 34 trucks of gravel that crossed into Gaza over the weekend from Egypt, which also had Israel’s approval. The materials from Egypt were earmarked for housing complexes and other construction projects that the emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, pledged to pay for when he visited Gaza in October.
The easing of restrictions on imports is a result of continuing talks in Cairo meant to anchor the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza. Israel is holding the discussions with Egypt and has no direct contact with Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist.
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