Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Increased imports further undermine flotilla facade

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Amid increased tensions surrounding the impending UN vote on Palestinian statehood and the new unity deal between Hamas and rival Fatah, Israel has been quietly easing its blockade on Gaza - which is in place in order to prevent Hamas militants from smuggling in weapons with which to attack Israel. News surfaced overnight that Israel has approved $100 million of new buildings in Gaza, significant development seeing that Israel is often criticised for its restrictions on importing building materials into the enclave. These materials are often used by Hamas to build military infrastructure such as fortified bunkers.

Israel has approved the building of $100 million worth of new houses and schools in the Gaza Strip, Israeli and UN officials said on Tuesday.

Guy Inbar, a military spokesman, said Israel had given the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) the green light to bring building materials for 18 new schools and 1,200 new houses into the Hamas-controlled territory.

The announcement comes just a few weeks before a Gaza-bound flotilla, attempting to emulate the media-storm created by last year's effort, is expected to breach the blockade. This flotilla has recieved far less support than last year's due to subsequent improvements to the living conditions in Gaza.

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