World

Gaza reconstruction: $5.4B US pledged so far

Norway's foreign minister says that $5.4 billion so far has been pledged for Gaza reconstruction, with Qatar pledging $1 billion.

Amount surpasses Palestinian president's plea for $4B

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      A donor conference in Cairo to raise money to rebuild the Gaza Strip after this year's war between Hamas and Israel ended with pledges of $5.4 billion for reconstruction there, Norway's foreign minister said Sunday.

      Egyptian state television quoted Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende as offering the figure at the end of Sunday's one-day conference. That's far beyond the $4 billion initially sought by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

      The breakdown of donations is as follows:

      • Qatar $1 billion.
      • EU $568 million.
      • U.S. $212 million.
      • United Arab Emirates $200 million.
      • Turkey $200 million.

      Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah, in announcing his country's pledge, denounced the "international silence" that surrounded Gaza's destruction.

      While the Palestinian people need financial support, they need more political support from the international community.- Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah

      "While the Palestinian people need financial support, they need more political support from the international community," he said. "A just peace is the only real guarantee for not destroying what we are about to rebuild and reconstruct."

      Delegates representing some 50 nations and 20 regional and international organizations applauded the pledge by Qatar, a tiny but energy-rich Gulf Arab nation at odds with its larger neighbours, like the Emirates.

      The Emirates, like regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia, charges that Qatar has been using its massive wealth undermine stability in the region, primarily through aiding militant Islamic groups, including Gaza's Hamas.

      Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said Gaza needs $4 billion to rebuild. He said the latest Gaza war caused "tragedies that are difficult to be described by words. ... Entire neighbourhoods have been reduced to rubble."

      "The (Palestinian) government will carry out the reconstruction plan with full responsibility and transparency in co-ordination with the U.N., the donors, international financial institutions, civil society and the private sector," he said.

      Donors plan to funnel the aid through Abbas' Palestinian Authority, and bypass Hamas. 

      Ban calls for 'just and final peace'

      Leading participants said the reconstruction of Gaza cannot be carried out in isolation from efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian talks in search of a comprehensive and lasting settlement.
      U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah in Cairo. Qatar has pledged $1 Billion for Gaza reconstruction, while Kerry announced immediate U.S. assistance of $212 million. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

      "We must not lose sight of the root causes of the recent hostilities: A restrictive occupation that has lasted almost half a century, the continued denial of Palestinian rights and the lack of tangible progress in peace negotiations," said Ban, who later announced in a news conference that he planned to visit Gaza on Tuesday.

      "I call on all parties to come together to chart a clear course toward a just and final peace," he told the conference, held amid tight security at a luxury hotel on the eastern outskirts of Cairo. "Going back to the status quo is not an option; this is the moment for transformational change."

      The latest conflict in Gaza was the most ruinous of three wars between Hamas and Israel since 2008, killing more than 2,000 Palestinians — mostly civilians, the UN says. Another 11,000 were wounded, and some 100,000 people remain homeless.

      Kerry said Gazans "need our help desperately — not tomorrow, not next week, but they need it now." He said the new U.S. money, which nearly doubles American aid to the Palestinians this year, would go to security, economic development, food and medicine, shelter and water and sanitation projects.

      Blockade remains in force

      Abbas and the militant Hamas group, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, recently formed a national unity government which held its first Cabinet meeting in Gaza last week. But a blockade of Gaza enforced by both Egypt and Israel remains in force, causing the territory of 1.8 million people economic hardships and high unemployment.

      Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, whose government negotiated the ceasefire that ended the most recent war, said the reconstruction effort hinged on a "permanent calm" between Hamas and Israel, and required the exercise of "full authority" by the Palestinian Authority led by Abbas.
      Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said $4 billion US was needed to reconstruct Gaza after the 50-day war that ended on Aug. 27. (Hassan Ammar/Associated Press)

      Egypt has had tense relations with Gaza's Hamas rulers since the Egyptian military ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July last year and threw its weight behind the administration of Abbas in the West Bank.

      El-Sissi said the conference sent a message that "the status quo must not continue, cannot be returned to, and that any attempt to bring about temporary stability will not last long."

      "I tell the Israelis, both citizens and government: The time has come to end the conflict without further delay, to grant rights and establish justice so that prosperity and security can prevail," he said.

      Palestinian-Israeli peace talks have broken down, and Abbas used the conference to warn that the failure to reach a deal posed a serious threat to regional stability.

      "Israel's aggression on the Gaza Strip exposed the fragility and dangerous nature of the situation in our region in the absence of a just peace," Abbas said. He called on the international community to support his bid to get the UN Security Council to dictate the ground rules for any future talks with Israel, including by setting a deadline for an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian lands.

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