Citing Hamas violation, Israel temporarily blocks Gaza cement imports

Palestinians viewing what used to be a tunnel leading from the Gaza Strip into Israel, Aug. 5, 2014. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90)

Palestinians viewing what used to be a tunnel leading from the Gaza Strip into Israel, Aug. 5, 2014. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90)

(JTA) – Israel has temporarily barred cement and other construction materials from entering the Gaza Strip after finding that Hamas was diverting some of the materials for its own use.

The Co-ordinator for Government Activities in the Territories, or COGAT, said the cement freeze went into effect on Sunday, the Times of Israel reported.

According to an announcement on the Israeli co-ordinator’s Arabic-language Facebook page, the deputy director of Hamas’ Economic Ministry has confiscated an undisclosed amount of cement that had been earmarked for rebuilding private-sector infrastructure damaged in the 2014 war with Israel.

Reconstruction agreements between Israel and the Palestinians prohibit Hamas, which governs Gaza, from accessing any imported construction materials over Israeli concerns that Hamas will use the materials to rebuild its vast network of underground tunnels designed for launching terrorist attacks against Israel and kidnapping Israeli soldiers.

Hamas has acknowledged rebuilding the tunnels, and numerous Hamas workers have died in recent months when tunnels they were working on collapsed.

“We are disappointed that Hamas continues to harm and take advantage of the Palestinian population, only to advance the personal interests of the organization,” COGAT wrote on its Facebook page, according to the Times of Israel.

The United Nations (UN) condemned the “deviation of materials” in a statement released Monday but did not mention Hamas.

“Those who seek to gain through the deviation of materials are stealing from their own people and adding to the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza,” said Nickolay Mladenov, the UN’s special co-ordinator for the Middle East peace process.

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