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Israel cement ban suspends Gaza reconstruction aid: UN

File photo taken on August 6, 2014 shows a Palestinian man sitting on the debris of a home destructed by the Israeli regime in Gaza City's al-Tufah neighborhood. ©AFP

The UN says reconstruction aid to more than 1,350 Gazan families has been suspended due to a dire shortage of building materials, after Israel blocked private imports of cement into the enclave.

The Gaza Strip has been chronically suffering from the dearth of construction materials caused by an Israeli blockade that has been rigorously enforced upon it since 2007. The inadequacy was exacerbated after Tel Aviv prevented the cement imports earlier this month, accusing the Gaza-based Palestinian resistance movement Hamas of diverting the supplies.

On Friday, a statement from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) announced that "organizations providing assistance have had to suspend cash assistance for house repairs to over 1,370 families as a result of scarcity and acute price increases."

The Tel Aviv ban has led to severe shortages across the coastal sliver, it noted, adding, "In addition, payment to 1,550 families scheduled to start reconstruction are being delayed due to the lack of available cement."

Hamas has denied the Israeli accusation, saying the imports were in line with a UN-brokered Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, aimed at allowing for reconstruction following Israel's three devastating wars since 2008. Reacting to the Israeli ban, Imad al-Baz, deputy director of the Economy Ministry in Gaza, said the Hamas government does not interfere with the cement distribution mechanism. He said all the distribution sites in Gaza are monitored by Israeli cameras.

Robert Piper, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, has also said he does not have the evidence to support the Israeli accusation.

File photo taken on July 22, 2015 shows Palestinians working at a construction site to rebuild houses which were destroyed during the Israeli war in the summer of 2014, in Gaza City's eastern suburb of al-Shejaiya. ©AFP

Much of Gaza remains in shambles since Israel’s war against the territory in the summer of 2014, which killed more than 2,500 people and wreaked huge destruction across the coastal sliver.

Over 75,000 people whose homes were either destroyed or severely damaged remain displaced, according to the UN.

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