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PM: Foreign donors must 'make good' on Gaza aid pledges

April 13, 2016 6:22 P.M. (Updated: April 26, 2016 6:02 P.M.)
Palestinians flee their destroyed neighbourhood on a horse and cart in Gaza's Beit Hanoun, on August 18, 2014. (AFP/Thomas Coex, File)
By: Killian Redden

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah on Wednesday urged foreign donors to "make good on their pledges" for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, nearly two years after a devastating Israeli offensive left tens of thousands of Palestinians homeless.

"Almost two years have passed since the end of the Israeli war on Gaza, and a large number of Palestinian families still suffer the consequences," Hamdallah said at a donors' meeting in Ramallah, according to a statement issued by his office.

The meeting was held to discuss the challenges the Palestinian Authority still faces in Gaza's reconstruction, which the statement attributed to both "Israeli obstacles and lack of sufficient funding."

Hamdallah pointed to pledges made by foreign donors at the Cairo Conference in 2014, shortly after the conclusion of Israel's 50-day offensive, which left more than 2,200 Palestinians dead, the vast majority civilians.

Foreign states then pledged $1.4 billion, but according to the World Bank only 40 percent of that has been disbursed.

The prime minister was joined by UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov, who also appealed to the international community to close the financial gap.

"I hope that we'll see more commitment to fulfill the pledges," Mladenov said, adding that in addition to rebuilding their homes, "the people in Gaza also have to rebuild their lives."

Hamdallah said the PA has rebuilt 5,800 totally destroyed homes and repaired more than 100,000 damaged homes, but he acknowledged that progress in reconstruction was "moving slowly."

"The international community has to do more than just condemn Israel for it continuous aggression," he said. "They have to force Israel to end its siege on Gaza."

Political deadlock

The Gaza Strip has seen three wars with Israel since 2008, with Israel's 2014 offensive completely destroying 12,600 homes, and leaving another 6,500 severely damaged and 150,000 housing units uninhabitable.

A major survey by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) published this week found that up to 75,000 Palestinians remain homeless in the beleaguered coastal enclave.

"Many families report living in shelter conditions that are lacking in safety, dignity and privacy, including living in tents, makeshift shelters, destroyed houses, or the open air," the UN body said in a statement.

Hamdallah on Wednesday laid much of the blame for reconstruction's slow pace on Israeli policies -- "ranging from the banning of import of cement, to denying entry to experts assisting in the reconstruction efforts."

However, reconstruction has also been slowed by political deadlock between Hamas, Gaza's de facto leaders, and Fatah, which dominates the Ramallah-based PA.

Hamdallah's nominal unity government has been effectively powerless in Gaza since it was formed in June 2014, and reconstruction efforts have been hindered by a succession of disputes between the two rival factions.

Earlier this week, UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid Robert Piper said foreign aid must go hand in hand with an end to Israel's blockade as well as reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.

"Without such action, coping capacities of exhausted and vulnerable households risk being depleted altogether," he said.
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