Palestinians will be able to begin importing reconstruction material into the Gaza Strip through Israeli-controlled crossings starting next week, Palestinian Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheikh said on Wednesday.
Al-Sheikh told Ma'an that Palestinian Authority crews will begin taking positions at Kerem Shalom and Beit Hanoun crossings as of next week in order to facilitate the transfer of goods.
The announcement comes amid rising uncertainty regarding the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, which was devastated by an Israeli offensive over summer that left more than 2,000 dead and more than 110,000 homeless.
Israel has for the last eight years severely restricted all imports and exports, including basic supplies such as concrete, and many have voiced fears that despite Israel's promises to "ease" the siege in the summer ceasefire, little had changed.
Al-Sheikh's statement, however, suggests progress in ongoing negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, including a demand that Hamas officials be removed from crossings into Israel and be replaced by crews under the command of the Palestinian unity government, who will be expected to ensure no weapons enter Gaza.
Al-Sheikh also told Ma'an that the social affairs ministry received Israeli approval to allow families of Gazan prisoners to visit them in Israeli jails, and that it is pressuring Israel into creating work permits into Israel for Palestinians from Gaza.
Gazans have been almost completely restricted from entering Israel since the beginning of the siege in 2006, but before that could apply for permits for work or tourism similar to West Bank Palestinians. more