Israel has suspended cement deliveries to the besieged Gaza Strip, a move that further tightens the blockade on the Palestinian coastal sliver.
Yoav Mordechai, the head of Israel's military administration in the occupied Palestinian territories, announced on Monday that Tel Aviv had suspended imports of cement into Gaza, claiming that Palestinian resistance movement Hamas had diverted the building material to its own construction activities.
The move means that hundreds of construction projects will be stopped and the reconstruction process following Israel's 50-day war against Gaza, which severely damaged its infrastructure in the summer of 2014, would be hindered.
In a statement, Nickolay Mladenov, the UN special coordinator for the so-called Middle East peace process, called for "a rapid resolution of this matter," and said “the reconstruction of Gaza remains critical to ensuring its stability.”
“The people of Gaza depend on the entry of construction material to repair and reconstruct their damaged and destroyed houses following the 2014 conflict and to enable much needed infrastructure and development projects,” Mladenov said.
In early July 2014, Israel waged a war on Gaza. The offensive ended on August 26 with a truce that took effect after indirect negotiations in the Egyptian capital Cairo. Nearly 2,200 Palestinians, including 577 children, were killed in Israel’s onslaught. Over 11,100 others -- including 3,374 children, 2,088 women and 410 elderly people -- were also injured.
The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli siege since 2007. The blockade has caused a decline in the standards of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty.
Power cut in West Bank
In another development on Monday, the Israeli regime cut power supplies to large areas in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem, a move Tel Aviv said was in response to the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s failure to pay electricity bills.
"The power supply will be reduced by about 50 percent to Bethlehem on Thursday," the Israeli Electric Corporation (IEC) said in a statement.
The IEC also warned the Palestinians of more shortages as a result of the growing debt, which it said had reached almost USD 450 million.
"The company's management stressed that it intends to take all available means to collect the debt and prevent it from growing further," the statement read.
Palestinian officials have described the IEC’s decision as cruelty toward West Bank residents and a collective punishment. They say the dispute between the PA and the Israeli company over electricity rates and calculations of interest payments has led to the crisis.