UN welcomes Israel’s decision to approve construction projects in Gaza

By United Nations

A top United Nations envoy in the Middle East has welcomed Israel's decision to allow UN-backed construction projects in the Gaza Strip.

Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, welcomed what he called a “significant step” taken yesterday with Israel's approval of construction projects that are to be implemented by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

Israeli said yesterday that would let the United Nations bring in building materials that were meant for the UN housing and school construction projects.

Mr. Serry said: “We will continue to work together with the relevant UN agencies to implement these projects in a timely fashion, so as to improve the situation in Gaza.”

The decision was announced a day after Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon discussed the matter with Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak in a telephone call.

During that call, “the Secretary-General welcomed the progress made and urged speedy implementation of the UN Relief and Works Agency's housing projects,” said Martin Nesirky, a UN spokesperson.

Israel imposed the blockade on Gaza for what it called security reasons after Hamas, which does not recognize Israel's right to exist, ousted the Fatah movement in the Strip in 2007. The two factions reached a deal last month, agreeing to form a national unity government and hold elections within a year.

In June 2010, Israel started allowing in more civilian goods into Gaza while still restricting access to concrete, iron and other materials that the UN has said are needed to repair the devastating damage caused by the 2008-2009 offensive Israel said it launched to halt rocket and other attacks against it.