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Israel eases building materials blockade on Gaza

By The Associated Press

This article was published December 31, 2012 at 7:23 a.m.

— Israel has started allowing long-banned building materials into the Gaza Strip, its first key concession to the Palestinian territory’s ruling Hamas movement under the cease-fire that ended eight days of fighting last month, the military said Monday.

The military says the shipments will continue so long as the border remains quiet. But a Hamas official said the amount sent so far is “cosmetic,” and Gaza economists say it would take years of round-the-clock shipments to even make a dent in the gap left by five years of blockade.

Israel imposed a wide-ranging embargo on Gaza after Hamas seized it in 2007. Building materials like cement, gravel and metal rods were largely banned, as Israel argued they could be used to make fortifications and weapons to attack the Jewish state.

The military says it began allowing shipments of gravel to Gaza’s private sector Sunday because the Israeli attacks on Hamas’ military operations in November cowed the militant group into quiet.

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