Middle East

Gaza construction convoy crosses from Egypt

Truck passes through Rafah crossing. 29 Dec 2012
Image caption The trucks passed through the Rafah crossing into Gaza

Egypt has allowed construction materials to enter the Gaza Strip from its territory for the first time since Hamas came to power there in 2007.

A convoy of trucks carrying thousands of tonnes of supplies donated by the Gulf state of Qatar entered Gaza via the Rafah border crossing on Saturday.

Egypt had previously kept the crossing closed to cargo, while Israel also maintained heavy restrictions.

Israel agreed to ease its measures in a truce deal with Hamas last month.

Many goods are smuggled from Egypt through a network of underground tunnels into Gaza.

An Egyptian security official quoted by AP news agency said the shipment had been made in consultation with Israeli officials who were in Cairo on Thursday.

Qatar has pledged more than $400m (£250m) to finance reconstruction in Gaza and improve crumbling housing, schools, a hospital and roads.

A Hamas official said it was a positive step.

"We hope that Egypt will open this crossing permanently for goods so our people can meet their needs," said Ehab al-Ghsain, head of the Hamas government's media office.

Some 170 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed in an eight-day conflict between Hamas and Israel in November.

Earlier this month, Hamas celebrated its 25th anniversary in Gaza with a rally attended by exiled political leader Khaled Meshaal.

Hamas won elections in Gaza in 2006 and came to power a year later after ejecting the rival Fatah faction.

Correction 7 January 2013: This story has been amended to clarify the reference to Egypt's closure of the Rafah crossing.