Saturday, December 29, 2012

Egypt allows building materials to enter Gaza via Rafah

From Egypt Independent:

Islamist-led Egypt allowed building materials into Gaza via the Rafah crossing on Saturday for the first time since Hamas seized control of the Palestinian enclave in 2007, an Egyptian border official said.

It was part of a shipment of building materials donated by the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, which has pledged $400 million to finance reconstruction in Gaza. The Islamist group Hamas has run Gaza since driving out its rivals in the Palestinian Authority.

Cairo has restricted the use of Rafah crossing to travellers and medical relief, giving rise to extensive smuggling into Gaza through tunnels under the border.

The border official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that while the Egyptian authorities had agreed to allow the Qatari-donated material into Gaza, the shipment did not mark the start of the full opening of the crossing sought by Hamas.

An official in Gaza's Hamas government said it was a positive step. "We hope that Egypt will open this crossing permanently for goods so our people can meet their needs," said Ehab al-Ghsain, head of the Hamas government media office.

Ghsain said: "Rafah had been closed for goods for so many years and we always hoped such a policy would change, without exempting the Israeli occupation from their responsibilities. Israel must end the closure and reopen all crossings with Gaza."
But Israel is also allowing more building materials into Gaza:
Israel will for the first time in five years, authorize entry of construction materials into Gaza, as part of the ceasefire agreement with Hamas, according to Israeli and Palestinian officials.

"Starting Sunday, up to 20 trucks carrying building materials will enter Gaza on a daily basis, via the Kerem Shalom crossing," said Palestinian official Raed Fattouh to AFP.
Is it worth allowing Hamas to more easily build underground military bunkers if they keep their end of the cease-fire? December has still not seen a single rocket or mortar land in Israel from Gaza.

And Hamas was managing to get all the cement it needed for the past five years through the tunnels anyway.

The accomplishment of a real cease fire - the first true cease fire since Israel withdrew from Gaza - is no small thing. But one month isn't that long either. If it stretches into years, then this might be worth it. But the best scenario is for Egypt to take over responsibility for imports and exports from Gaza, and let the Gaza economy become integrated with Egypt's.