Israel and Egypt facilitate the transfer of construction materials to the Gaza Strip

Ilustration: stock.xchg December 31, 2012. Following five and a half years in which the entrance of construction materials to the Gaza Strip has been heavily restricted, in the past few days, both Israel and Egypt have facilitated transfers of materials via Kerem Shalom and Rafah crossings, respectively, perhaps pointing to a change in policy. Yesterday, Israel allowed 20 truckloads of gravel destined for the private sector to enter Gaza; this coming one day after Egypt allowed construction materials to enter Gaza via Rafah Crossing.

On Saturday, the first 12 truckloads of construction materials (approximately 840 tons of gravel), donated by the Qatari government for building projects, entered Gaza via Rafah. During his October visit to the Strip, the emir of Qatar pledged millions of dollars in funding for building projects throughout the Strip. The projects had been delayed until now by the lack of a solution for how to transfer the materials. In the coming days, 100,000 tons of construction materials are expected to enter Gaza via Rafah.

At this point, it remains unclear whether this indicates a change in policy on the part of Egypt with regard to entrance of goods via Rafah Crossing or whether this is a continuation of the policy to periodically allow entrance of humanitarian convoys. The materials which are entering now are exclusively destined for the Qatari-funded projects and are not being sold on the private market.

Starting in June 2007, Israel banned the entrance of construction materials to the Strip via Kerem Shalom Crossing. In 2010, Israel began to allow international organizations to bring in cement, steel and gravel for projects which had been approved by and coordinated with Israel. The move to allow a quota of 20 truckloads of gravel to enter the Strip per day marks the first time since 2007 that Israel is allowing entrance of gravel for the private sector. 

It also remains unclear whether the bureaucratic obstacles international organizations have faced in transferring construction materials into the Strip via Israel will continue given the unsupervised entrance of gravel at Kerem Shalom. For the past two and a half years, projects undertaken by the international community have been delayed and made more costly due to the coordination demands of Israeli security officials. Gisha is currently not aware of any changes in these procedures.

For reference, over the past year, approximately 970 truckloads of gravel (or 67, 712 tons) have entered Gaza via Kerem Shalom per month for internationally-supervised projects.