Rebuilding of ruined Gaza structures to start next week

Qatar and Egypt pay $1bn to repair facilities, streets and homes destroyed in May conflict

Reconstruction funded by Qatar and Egypt in Hamas-governed Gaza is set to begin next week, four months after the latest Hamas-Israel flare-up, which killed 250 in Gaza and 13 in Israel.

Naji Sarhan, under-secretary for the de facto Hamas government's public works ministry, told al-Jazeera, "Qatar pledged $500 million [€430 million] to rebuild residential units destroyed in the recent Israeli offensive, where Egypt pledged $500 million that will go to the infrastructure and destroyed streets."

Mr Sarhan said it was hoped more donors join the reconstruction process, including the Gulf Co-operation Council and European Union, as the agricultural and industrial sectors were also in dire need of revival.

During this phase of reconstruction, Qatar will rebuild 1,800 destroyed and damaged housing units. Egypt has shifted machinery into Gaza through the crossing at Rafah in southern Gaza ahead of tackling infrastructure. Both the Egyptian military and private firms are expected to be involved, France 24 satellite channel is reporting.


Israeli bombing

According to the UN, during the exchanges of rocket fire and Israeli aerial bombing over 11 days in May, more than 2,000 homes in Gaza were destroyed or severely damaged, including those in four levelled high-rise buildings, and 15,000 housing and commercial units sustained some damage.

Water and sanitation facilities, schools, hospitals, and primary healthcare centres were also targeted by Israeli war planes and artillery. About 8,500 people have been rendered homeless as their residences were “destroyed or so severely damaged as to be uninhabitable”, the UN says.

The estimate for rebuilding is $479 million, while the cost of reconstruction from previous conflicts, particularly after the 2014 war, amounts to $600 million. Countries which then pledged $5.4 billion delivered only $800 million, leaving homes, public buildings and apartment blocks in ruin.

Following Palestinian protests at the end of August against Israeli’s 14-year blockade of Gaza and restrictions on construction material needed for rebuilding, Israel allowed a large delivery of vehicles, machinery and materials for civilian use.

Security concerns

The Israeli defence ministry’s office for Palestinian affairs stated at the time that easing restrictions depended upon the “preservation of the region’s security” and could be expanded if the border between Israel and Gaza remained quiet.

Citing security concerns, Israel tightly controls the entry into Gaza of all supplies through the sole goods crossing at Karem Shalom. Since 2014, the flow of cement, aggregate and metal bars for construction has been severely limited by the Gaza Construction Mechanism, which, according to the UN’s ReliefWeb, “puts Gaza under an even tighter blockade “ than before it was established.

Egypt controls the movement of Palestinians into and out of the strip through Rafah, the only crossing for travellers allowed under the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. The Egyptian terminal is, however, a large facility which has permitted the passage of emergency supplies and ambulances and could be used for importing material for reconstruction material if Israeli agreed.

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen contributes news from and analysis of the Middle East to The Irish Times