GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israel allowed the import of around 20 rescue and firefighting vehicles into the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, Palestinian officials said.
The equipment, which was donated by Qatar, includes several SUVs fitted with water pumps. Gaza’s Civil Defense previously had just 33 vehicles to serve the territory’s 2 million people, including a single fire truck with a hydraulic platform.
Israel and Egypt have blockaded Gaza since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007.
Raed al-Dahshan, a spokesman for Gaza’s Civil Defense, said Tuesday’s shipment was “unprecedented.”
The Civil Defense said no firefighting equipment has been allowed into Gaza since 2007, and the last shipment of fire trucks was brought in by the Western-backed Palestinian Authority in 1998.
The blockade, which restricts imports and exports, has devastated Gaza’s economy and caused the unemployment rate to skyrocket to over 50%.
Israel says the closure is needed to prevent Hamas from arming. But fearing a humanitarian disaster that could spill over into violence, Israel has begun to soften its line.
The wealthy Gulf Arab state of Qatar, a key donor, has become an unlikely partner in Israel’s quest. Qatar has provided aid and led development projects in recent years to support efforts to preserve calm.
Hamas and Israel have fought three wars in the last decade.