UN says Gaza reconstruction to cost $30-40 billion, damage on scale unseen since WWII

United Nations Development Programme report estimates Palestinian economy has shrunk by 26.9% since Hamas’s October 7 massacre

Palestinians look at the destruction after an Israeli airstrike in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, Tuesday, April 30, 2024. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)
Palestinians look at the destruction after an Israeli airstrike in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, Tuesday, April 30, 2024. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

A United Nations agency said Thursday that rebuilding the Gaza Strip, following the destruction in the enclave resulting from the war between Israel and Hamas, will cost an estimated $30-40 billion and require an effort on a scale unseen since World War II.

“The United Nations Development Programme’s initial estimates for the reconstruction of… the Gaza Strip surpass $30 billion and could reach up to $40 billion,” UN assistant secretary-general Abdullah Al Dardari said.

“The scale of the destruction is huge and unprecedented… This is a mission that the global community has not dealt with since World War II,” Dardari, who previously served as deputy prime minister under Syrian President Bashar Assad, told a press conference in the Jordanian capital Amman.

He added that if Gaza’s reconstruction were to be carried out through the normal process, “it could take decades, and the Palestinian people do not have the luxury of waiting for decades.”

“It is therefore important that we act quickly to re-house people in decent housing and restore their lives to normal – economically, socially, in terms of health and education,” Dardari said. “This is our top priority, and it must be achieved within the first three years following the cessation of hostilities.”

He estimated the total rubble from bombardment and explosions at 37 million tons.

Abdullah Al Dardari gestures as he speaks during a conference, in Beirut, Lebanon, January 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

“We are talking about a colossal figure, and this figure is increasing every day,” he said. “The latest data indicates that it is already approaching 40 million tons.”

The UN official also said “72 percent of all residential buildings have been completely or partially destroyed.”

“Reconstruction must be planned carefully, efficiently and with extreme flexibility because we do not know how the war will end” and what type of post-war governance will be established in the Gaza Strip.

Gaza economy shrinking

The war between Israel and the terrorist group Hamas has also severely impacted the Palestinian economy. According to an assessment released on Thursday by the UNDP, it is estimated the Palestinian economy, encompassing both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, has shrunk by 26.9% since the war broke out on October 7.

The estimates, released with the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, also found that the Gaza poverty rate is expected to continue climbing to 58.4%.

The war erupted with Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel in which 3,000 terrorists killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped 253 to Gaza.

Israel’s subsequent offensive, vowing to destroy Hamas, has killed over 34,000 people in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. This figure cannot be independently verified and does not differentiate between civilians and Palestinian belligerents. Israel says it has killed over 13,000 terrorists since the war began and around 1,000 inside Israeli territory on October 7.

“Every additional day that this war continues is exacting huge and compounding costs to Gazans and all Palestinians,” said UNDP administrator Achim Steiner in a statement.

Palestinians buy food at a local market next to a residential building destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Thursday, March 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

“These new figures warn that the suffering in Gaza will not end when the war does,” he added.

He warned of a “serious development crisis” stemming from the massive losses over a short span of time.

Should the war continue for nine months, poverty is expected to more than double from pre-war levels, while the drop in gross domestic product would reach 29 percent, the UNDP said.

A World Bank report published early April said the Israel-Hamas war has caused damage of around $18.5 billion to Gaza’s critical infrastructure.

This was equivalent to 97% of the combined economic output of the West Bank and Gaza in 2022.

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