Israel warned Hamas against using stolen building materials meant for Gaza’s residents for its terror infrastructure.
Israeli authorities on Tuesday again accused the Hamas terror organization, which rules the Gaza Strip, of stealing construction material to sell on the black market and using it to rebuild its terror tunnels and military infrastructure.
Faris Atilla, Israel’s liaison coordinator for Gaza, warned that Israel may halt all shipments of reconstruction material if Hamas pursues with its abusive conduct, which is harmful to the residents of Gaza.
The official said in a statement that “Israel knows Hamas and some contractors and dealers use the construction materials for other purposes,” saying that they were being stolen and sold on the black market, the Palestinian Ma’an new agency reported.
A spokesperson for Hamas could not be immediately contacted for comment.
According to the Israeli statement, Palestinian Authority Ministry of Public Works and Housing Mufid al-Hasayna recently conceded that 7,000 tons of cement that entered Gaza had been stolen by a group of five individuals, who later sold it for 400,000 shekels (Approx. $100,000).
Atilla warned that if the practice continued, Israel would revoke Israeli entry permits given to Gazan contractors and their families, and stop all shipments of reconstruction material into the Gaza Strip.
“Israel does not intend to stop the construction process, because reconstruction will increase employment in Gaza, which will affect the residents’ needs,” Atilla said.
He warned that if Israel does stop shipments, “the dealers in the black market would be fully responsible.”
On Thursday, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nikolay Mladenov applauded reconstruction efforts following a visit to Gaza, but said that thousands of homes were yet to be built.
“I am too well aware that work is yet to start on the homes of some 74 per cent of families displaced in 2014,” he told the UN Security Council.
Mladenov did not accuse Hamas of taking advantage of the reconstruction effort, but did criticize the movement for continuing to dig tunnels and fire rockets into Israel.
Israel has repeatedly warned Hamas against abusing Israel’s humanitarian efforts in the Strip.
Israel has recently warned Hamas against exploiting the entry of Palestinians into Israel, which may force Israel to block entry to Gaza residents seeking medical care or business opportunities if Hamas continues to recruit them for terror missions.
Israel has previously uncovered several similar incidents of Palestinians exploiting Israel’s humanitarian efforts for terror purposes.