The January 2009 invasion of the Gaza Strip left much of the tiny enclave in ruins. Nearly two and a half years later much of the damage remains, with Israeli officials continuing to strictly limit building material allowed in for repairs.
But today, the Israeli Defense Ministry approved a pair of large United Nations projects in the strip, allowing the importation of supplies to build 1,200 houses and 18 schools. The supplies will be sent to the UN directly and can only be used on projects previously approved by the Israeli government.
The approval signals the first large scale importation of cement and steel into the Gaza Strip since the invasion, and while UN officials say it will make a big difference there remains an extreme shortage of both liveable housing and schools.
The shortage, of course, is purely a function of the blockade, as a number of nations have offered significant funding to rebuild the strip since the war, and the UN program is only a small fraction of those.
In the meantime those who aren’t the United Nations have few options, but a number of Gazans have reverted to constructing simple dwellings out of mud since the war. With Egypt opening their border to Gaza on what appears to be a permanent basis, however, the Israeli restrictions could soon be practically meaningless.