The Intel Information Technology Centre of Excellence is intended to provide IT training to Palestinians and stimulate development of high-tech industry in an area where half the labour force is unemployed.

 

The centre is being developed in conjunction with Washington DC-based American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA) and the Islamic University of Gaza, The East Valley Tribune newspaper in Arizona reported.

 

Chuck Mulloy, an Intel spokesman, told the newspaper: "We don't want to discount the tension in the area ... but from our perspective, we view it as something that can have a positive impact.

 

"If you talk to the leaders of the Palestinian Authority, this is exactly the kind of thing they want. They want education, they want paths to improve the economic well-being of their citizens."

 

Arab investment

 

Intel has had a presence in Israel for more than three decades, but over the past few years has launched an initiative to expand its investments in the Arab world.

 

The centre is the company's first large project in the Palestinian territories, an area where American corporate involvement is rare.

 

Peter Gubser, president of ANERA, said it will be staffed primarily by Palestinians and will be a few kilometres outside Gaza City in an area set to become a technology park with the Intel centre as its anchor.

 

Construction is expected to begin in about two months, with completion a year later.

 

The cost to build and equip the centre will only be about $1 million, Gubser said, because a dollar goes a lot farther in the Middle East.

 

Though the security situation in Gaza is not good, Gubser believes the willingness of Intel to be an American corporate pioneer in the Gaza Strip may encourage other American corporations to follow.