Less than two percent of the $5.4 billion of aid pledged by international donors to help rebuild Gaza following Operation Protective Edge has been transferred, and none of the Arab states have come through yet on their promised share, according to Palestinian officials.
The funds, which were promised this October at a conference in Cairo, were meant to provide the battered coastal enclave with much-needed reconstruction aid following this summer’s bloody 50-day conflict between Israel and terrorist groups operating within the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian Authority sharply criticized the delay, especially on the part of the Arab states.
“The Arab countries haven’t paid anything until now,” Palestinian Housing Minister Mufeed al-Hasayna was quoted by Reuters as saying earlier this month. “The Europeans just a few millions, maybe something from the Swedes.”
The October conference, which raised far more than the original $4 billion originally requested by the Palestinian Authority, was considered to be a major success for the Palestinians, with the Gulf state of Qatar pledging $1 billion, Saudi Arabia $500 million, and the United States and European Union promising a combined $780 million of various forms of aid. Turkey and the UAE also pledged $200 million each.
According to the UN and other officials, only $100 million has been received, mainly from the US and Europe, and the Palestinians have been unsuccessful in securing additional funding since.
Half of the money pledged was earmarked for rebuilding houses and infrastructure in Gaza destroyed during the conflict, with the rest going towards financing the budget of the debt-ridden Palestinian Authority responsible for the reconstruction effort. The PA was also set to retake responsibility for the Gaza Strip, under a reconciliation agreement with Hamas, but that does not seem likely to happen in the near future.
Although the Israeli government has acknowledged the need for reconstruction efforts in Gaza, authorities have expressed grave concern that aid will be exploited by Hamas to rearm its supply of rockets and rebuild tunnels leading into Israel. Jerusalem has frequently claimed that cement and other building materials are being used to rebuild much of the elaborate tunnel network that infiltrated into Israeli territory. During the war, the tunnels were used to ambush and kill IDF soldiers and were intended for future attacks on southern Israeli communities.
“We have received funding and pledges of approximately $100 million for shelter and repair,” said Robert Turner, Operations Director for the UN’s Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza, an international agency that provides social services for Palestinians living within the strip, on Friday.
“That money will be largely finished in January 2015. We have a shortfall [for shelter and homes] of $620 million and we are going to run out right in the hardest part of winter,” Turner added.
Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on July 8 to stop Hamas and other groups’ indiscriminate rocket fire on Israeli cities and to destroy the terror tunnels that infiltrate into Israeli territory.
During the operation, Hamas rejected a number of ceasefire proposals and violated a number of those that were agreed to.
Israel lost 66 soldiers and six civilians, and a Thai agricultural worker, in the month-long conflict, while the Palestinian death toll surpassed 2,100, according to Hamas officials in Gaza. Israel said half of the Gaza dead were gunmen and blamed Hamas for all civilian deaths because it operated against Israel from residential areas, placing Gazans in harm’s way.
US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority ended in late April after Abbas signed a unity pact with Hamas. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to continue negotiations with a government that rests on the support of a terror group.
The Palestinians on Wednesday submitted a draft resolution to the UN Security Council seeking recognition of a Palestinian state and demanding an Israeli pullout to the 1967 lines by 2017.