An Israeli security official, speaking on condition of anonymity under policy guidelines, confirmed that building materials had entered Gaza. He had no specific details, but said they came under previously announced government decisions.
In recent weeks, COGAT, the Israeli defense body responsible for Palestinian civilian issues, said it was planning to allow more goods into Gaza if the security situation stabilized. Last week, it said it would “expand the entry of goods and equipment for international civilian projects in the Gaza Strip.”
Israel, with Egyptian help, has maintained a tight blockade over Gaza since Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007, a year after winning a Palestinian election. Israel says the blockade is needed to keep Hamas, an Islamic militant group sworn to Israel's destruction, from rearming, while critics say the closure amounts to collective punishment. The blockade, which restricts the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza, has devastated Gaza's economy.
Israel and Hamas have fought four wars since 2008, and Israel has tightened the blockade since the latest fighting in May. Thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed, and construction goods are badly needed.
Later on Tuesday, Hamas activists held another nighttime demonstration along the Israeli border to call for a lifting of the blockade. Gaza health officials said three Palestinians were lightly wounded by Israeli gunfire.
Egyptian mediators have been trying to broker a longer-term cease-fire. But Israel has demanded the return of the remains of two dead Israeli soldiers and freedom of two Israeli civilians in Hamas captivity.
Gisha, an Israeli human rights group that has pushed for an end to the closure, called Tuesday's move “crucial but insufficient, especially given the scope of the damage in Gaza, as well as Israel’s legal and moral obligations towards residents of the strip.”
“The situation in Gaza is not simply a humanitarian crisis that can be managed via narrow humanitarian gestures,” Gisha said. “Any meaningful attempt at resolving this dire situation requires much more expansive opening of the strip, underpinned by a broader political process."
Shurafa reported from Gaza City, Gaza Strip.