JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israel has approved the delivery to the Gaza Strip of materials to build 1,200 homes and 18 schools in UN-run projects, a defence official told AFP on Tuesday. The decision came shortly before the scheduled departure of an international convoy seeking to breach Israels naval blockade of Gaza and as Israeli officials argued that there is no humanitarian crisis there. Major Guy Inbar, spokesman for the defense ministry department responsible for liaison with the Palestinian territories, said the materials would be consigned to the United Nations Relief and Welfare Agency, which cares for Palestinian refugees and is managing construction. What we approved for UNRWA was more big projects, the construction of 18 schools, Inbar told AFP. Also two big projects were approved for the building of about 1,200 housing units. The decision was greeted by UNRWA. We welcome this reported approval, which follows lengthy negotiations with the Israeli authorities, spokesman Chris Gunness said in a statement. We hope this will help meet the needs of refugees, particularly those in the south of the Gaza Strip. A devastating 22-day Israeli military offensive, which ended in January 2009, reduced much of Gazas infrastructure and many private homes to rubble. For 18 months afterwards, Israel banned the import of cement and other construction materials, saying that they were likely to be used by the militant Islamist Hamas group to fix bunkers, tunnels and other fortifications. It relented last summer in response to mounting international pressure to ease restrictions after nine Turkish activists were killed in a May 31 commando raid on a flotilla of aid ships trying to break the blockade.