Israel expected to renew cement supply to Gaza private sector

Israel is expected to renew the supply of cement for private projects in the Gaza Strip in the coming days.

The cement is meant for the reconstruction of thousands of civilian structures damaged or destroyed during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, as well as for use in aid and welfare projects in the Strip.

Israel halted the shipment of cement to the private sector in Gaza about a month ago in the wake of a Hamas attempt to pilfer the cement for its own purposes – likely for its tunnels construction project.

Supply of cement to international reconstruction projects, however, continued uninterrupted, as it operates on a different mechanism to that of the private sector.

Imad al-Baz, the deputy director at the Gazan Economy Ministry who was responsible for the theft of the cement, had to resign after Israel “shamed” him online, thus embarrassing Hamas. He has since been appointed to another position at the Hamas Economy Ministry. While al-Baz denied the accusations against him, his resignation was seen as a message from Hamas to Israel.

According to the security officials, the decision to renew the supply of cement to the private sector was made as a gesture to Turkey – with whom Israel has been holding reconciliation negotiations for months – that is seeking to remove what Ankara refers to as the “siege over Gaza.”

Last month, an adviser for the Turkish president told a Hamas newspaper in Gaza that the talks with Israel have reached advanced stages, and that Israel has accepted the demand to apologize for the Marmara raid, in which IDF commandos, who were met with violent terrorists while taking over a Turkish-owned vessel trying to break the blockade over Gaza, shot dead 10 Turkish citizens.

The aide further claimed that the full details of the agreement taking shape between Jerusalem and Ankara will soon be released, and will include the removal of the Israeli security blockade over Gaza and the opening of a naval route between the Turkish-controlled Cyprus and the Gaza Strip.