GAZA STRIP — A Hamas official warned Wednesday that the Gaza Strip could become a breeding ground for extremism unless reconstruction of the war-battered Palestinian enclave is accelerated.
“Our message to the world, which is scared of terrorism and extremism, is that the delay in rebuilding Gaza and the continuing blockade against it will make it a ripe environment for the spread of extremism and terrorism,” Khalil al-Haya told a Gaza City meeting of MPs of Islamist movement Hamas.
“We warn of the consequences,” he said, without elaborating.
Israel and Hamas fought a July-August war in the coastal strip that killed almost 2,200 Palestinians and damaged tens of thousands of Gazan homes, leaving around 100,000 people displaced. Israel maintains that close to half of those killed were Hamas and other gunmen, and points to Hamas rocket launchers situated in residential areas as the prime reason for the high civilian casualty rate.
On the Israeli side 73 people were killed, including 66 soldiers. Some of the casualties on the Israeli side stemmed from indiscriminate Palestinian shelling of Israeli towns and cities.
More than four months after the conflict ended, reconstruction has barely begun, with experts saying it will take years even if Israel significantly eases its eight-year blockade on Gaza.
Israel, which controls two of the three crossings into Hamas-controlled Gaza, maintains tight curbs on entry of building material, fearing they could be used by terrorists to make weapons or attack tunnels. Egypt controls the third.
Hamas, a terror group that seeks the elimination of Israel, has joined in international condemnation of last week’s killing of 12 people in an attack on Paris satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo by French Islamists, insisting that “differences of opinion and thought cannot justify murder.”