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Dozens of trucks loaded with construction materials have been allowed into the ravaged Gaza Strip, slightly easing a crippling 14-year blockade on the besieged enclave that has grown even stronger since the end of a deadly 11-year assault. days last May.

The imports came days after hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza protested along the border fence with Israel to pressure it to lift its siege and allow reconstruction of Gaza after its relentless offensive. It also happened when the Palestinians threw incendiary balloons which set off multiple fires in southern Israel.

Two Palestinians – including a 12-year-old boy – died of their wounds last week after being shot dead by Israeli fire, while at least 41 others were wounded. An Israeli soldier also died days after being shot by a Palestinian against the fence.

Bassam Ghabin, director of the Karam Abu Salem commercial crossing point, said 30 cement trucks, 120 gravel trucks and 15 steel trucks entered Gaza on Tuesday. He said materials started coming in on Monday and the crossing was operating at almost the same capacity as before the May attack.

The crossing point is the main passage that transfers basic necessities to Gaza’s nearly two million residents, including cooking gas, wheat and flour. It also facilitates the delivery of essential foreign aid.

An Israeli security official, speaking on condition of anonymity in accordance with political guidelines, confirmed that construction materials had entered Gaza. He did not have specific details, but said they fell under previously announced government decisions.

“Crucial but insufficient”

In recent weeks, COGAT, an Israeli military unit responsible for civil affairs in the occupied territories, has said it plans to allow more goods into Gaza if the security situation stabilizes. Last week he said he would “expand the entry of goods and equipment for international civilian projects into the Gaza Strip.”

Israel has tightened its blockade since the last fighting in May. Thousands of homes have been damaged or destroyed, and construction supplies are sorely lacking.

Gisha, an Israeli human rights group that pushed for an end to the closure, called Tuesday’s decision “crucial but insufficient, especially given the scale of the damage in Gaza, as well as legal and moral obligations. of Israel to the inhabitants of the band ”.

“The situation in Gaza is not just a humanitarian crisis that can be handled with narrow humanitarian gestures,” Gisha said. “Any meaningful attempt to resolve this dire situation requires a much wider opening of the gang, underpinned by a broader political process.”

Palestinian fishermen board boats in Gaza City seaport in 2019 [Mohammed Salem/Reuters]

Back to the sea

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Maan News Agency quoted a COGAT statement on Tuesday as saying that the limit of the fishing zone off the coast of Gaza will also be extended to 15 nautical miles (28 km). Israel routinely limits the area to Gaza fishermen as a punitive measure in response to Hamas protests or policies, severely affecting the livelihoods of some 4,000 fishermen and at least 1,500 others involved in the industry.

Under the Oslo Accords signed in 1993, Israel was obliged to allow fishing up to 20 nautical miles (37 km), but this was never implemented.

In practice, Israel only allowed fishing up to 12 nautical miles (22 km) until 2006, when the fishing zone was reduced to six and later to three.

It also increased the water supply by an additional five million cubic meters.

INTERACTIVE: Gaza Fishing Zone April 1, 2019

The coastal enclave has suffered from years of Israeli and Egyptian blockades, as well as cuts in foreign aid by the United States.

The May offensive was the fourth major Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip since Hamas seized power there in 2007. At least 260 Palestinians have been killed, including 67 children and 39 women, according to the country’s health ministry. Gaza, while 13 people were killed in Israel.

Palestinians in Gaza staged another nighttime protest along the fence with Israel to call for the blockade to be lifted. Gaza health officials said three Palestinians sustained minor injuries from Israeli fire.

Egyptian mediators attempted to negotiate a longer-term ceasefire. But Israel demanded the return of the remains of two Israeli soldiers and the release of two Israeli civilians held in Hamas captivity.