Donors pledge $5.4bn for Gaza reconstruction

Aid committed in Cairo to rebuild enclave devastated by summer's conflict surpasses what Palestinians had asked for.

    Global donors have pledged a sum of $5.4bn in aid to reconstruct the Gaza Strip amid warnings that the Palestinian territory remains a "tinderbox" following the summer war between Hamas and Israel.

    The pledged amount surpasses the $4bn which Palestinians had asked for during the conference to reconstruct the enclave, after the 50-day Israeli military campaign Operation Protective Edge in July and August.

    "The participants pledged approximately $5.4bn," Boerge Brende, Norwegian foreign minister, said during the closing statement at the Cairo conference which Norway co-hosted.

    Khalid al-Attiyah, the Qatari foreign minister, who is in the Egyptian capital for the conference, announced his country was pledging $1bn in aid.

    The US promised $212m to meet what John Kerry, secretary of state, described as an "enormous" challenge in Gaza.

    Kerry also urged renewed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, telling the conference that both sides needed to be helped to make "tough choices" for lasting stability.

    Gaza remains a tinderbox, the people desperately need to see results in their daily lives.

    Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general

    "The people of Gaza do need our help, desperately, not tomorrow, not next week, they need it now," Kerry told the gathering of about 30 global envoys and UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

    European Union member states will contribute a total of $570m to Gaza, the bloc's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said. Germany pledged $63m and Norway about $13m.

    There is widespread concern that - after three destructive conflicts in the past six years - any help to Gaza will eventually be lost in the enclave's cycle of violence.

    Ban expressed the fears of many when he told the conference the situation in Gaza remained potentially explosive.

    "Gaza remains a tinderbox, the people desperately need to see results in their daily lives," Ban said.

    The Palestinian government unveiled a 76-page reconstruction plan before the conference, with the lion's share of assistance to build housing.

    Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, said Gaza's need was desperate.

    "Gaza has suffered three wars in six years. Entire neighbourhoods have been destroyed," he said.

    Peace efforts

    Kerry's pursuit of a long-elusive peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in April after a difficult nine-month process.

    There was little prospect of fresh talks any time soon.

    Israel and the Hamas movement that dominates Gaza have yet to even translate their temporary August truce into a long-term ceasefire.

    This summer's conflict killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, while attacks by Gaza fighters killed 73 on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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