Israel is to allow construction materials for UN projects back into the Gaza Strip after reaching an agreement with the world body, officials said on Monday.
The ban on building materials was put in place on October 13 after troops discovered a sophisticated tunnel running under the Israel-Gaza border, built with the alleged aim of perpetrating anti-Israeli attacks.
"An agreement over the means of controlling and checking the import of these materials -- which will be used solely for UN projects in the Gaza Strip -- was reached on Monday and will go into force on Tuesday," said a spokesman for COGAT, the defence ministry unit responsible for civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories.
He said the deal, which was agreed by UN peace envoy Robert Serry and COGAT head Major General Eitan Dangot, would ensure the materials only reached UN bodies and did not find their way to Gaza's ruling Hamas movement or militants allied with it.
But the agreement did not apply to the import of steel and cement for private use, which Israel had permitted in September for the first time since 2007 for fear such materials would be used to build tunnels and fortify Hamas positions.
Signup to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
The move was confirmed by Serry's office, which said it would allow the implementation of "critical construction projects" such as schools, social housing and water and sanitation facilities, worth some $500 million (364 million euros).
"The situation in Gaza remains concerning and the United Nations is engaged with relevant parties in trying to address the most urgent issues such as energy, water and private sector construction," said a UN statement which also addressed the enclave's ongoing energy crisis.
"The United Nations hopes that a solution will be found quickly to the particularly pressing energy situation," it said, calling for potential contributors to step forward "urgently and decisively".
Gaza has been living through the worst fuel crisis in its history, causing power cuts of up to 16 hours per day, and creating major problems for hospitals, water and sanitation plants.
The territory has been languishing under an Israeli blockade since 2006 after Gaza militants snatched an Israeli soldier who was released in a prisoner swap deal in 2011.
It was tightened in 2007 after Hamas seized control, but eased considerably in recent years, following successive waves of international pressure.