May 25, 2016. This week, the supply of cement to the private sector in Gaza was renewed after having been banned by Israel since early April on allegations that cement had made its way to the black market. Over the past weeks, the United Nations has facilitated negotiations between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and various bodies involved in Gaza’s reconstruction in order to reach an agreement on conditions that would allow renewed supply of cement under the auspices of the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism. The mechanism allows Israel to approve or block construction projects and to choose which individuals and buyers can take part in the distribution and purchase of construction materials, as well as at what rate materials are to be distributed.
Farid Zaqout, chairman of the Building Industry Association in Gaza, told Gisha that according to new understandings reached, UN inspectors will ensure that the amount of cement entering at Kerem Shalom Crossing matches the amount ordered by vendors in Gaza. The Building Industry Association is currently reevaluating the capacity of factories to produce concrete and cinder blocks, and based on that assessment will determine how much cement each factory can order via the GRM.
The number of trucks of cement that have entered Gaza this week are similar to the numbers prior to the ban. However, given the nearly seven weeks during which Israel prevented the entrance of cement for the private sector, factories are struggling to receive enough supply to compensate for severe shortages. It appears that priority is being given to reconstruction projects, rather than outstanding needs for construction not related to the 2014 military operation, Protective Edge.