“This can only be the beginning of the long road towards reconstruction and a functioning economy in the Gaza Strip,” said a statement issued by the Office of UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry. Mr. Serry hopes the measures will stimulate commercial activities and allow a substantial increase in the amount of construction materials to enter Gaza, where, according to a recent UN report, three quarters of the buildings and infrastructure damaged by the Israeli military offensive carried out a year and a half ago have still not been repaired.He looks forward to continued discussions on exports to stimulate Gaza’s economy and on the easing of restrictions on the movement of Palestinians in and out of the Strip. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a statement issued by his spokesperson, also noted the agreement to facilitate the immediate start of the construction of 12 UN education and health facilities.“The Secretary-General has long called for a significant shift in strategy towards meeting the great needs of Gaza’s population,” said the statement. “Further steps must now follow to meet those needs and to allow the United Nations to accelerate and expand its efforts.”Mr. Ban, the Special Coordinator and other senior UN officials have repeatedly called for ending the blockade against Gaza, which Israel imposed on the territory for what it called security reasons after Hamas, which does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, ousted the Fatah movement in the Strip in 2007. 6 July 2010United Nations officials today welcomed the additional measures announced by Israel in increasing the scope and quantity of materials allowed into Gaza, voicing their hope that the move will help address the needs of the 1.5 million Palestinians living in the territory.