EL-ARISH, Egypt - Thousands of tons of building materials such as cement and steel began crossing into the Gaza Strip on Saturday, Egyptian and Palestinian officials said, temporarily easing a five-year-old blockade on the coastal territory.
An Egyptian security official said the shipment was made in consultation with Israeli officials, who were in Cairo on Thursday to discuss security in the Sinai Peninsula and the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire agreed upon by Gaza's Hamas rulers and Israel last month. The Egyptian official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The director of Gaza's border authority, Maher Abu Sabha, confirmed that a total of 20 trucks carrying materials were expected to arrive in the coastal strip Saturday through the Rafah border crossing.
Qatar is paying for the raw materials that were bought in Egypt, the official added.
The tiny oil-rich Persian Gulf country has pledged 24 projects worth $425 million in the Gaza Strip to improve crumbling housing, schools, a hospital, and roads.
Under former President Hosni Mubarak, Israel's longtime ally, Egypt had poor relations with Hamas, and teamed up with Israel to blockade Gaza after the militant group seized power from its rival Fatah in 2007, two years after winning elections.
While Israel has eased the blockade in recent years, key restrictions remain in place on exports out of Gaza and the entry of badly needed building materials and other goods into the territory.