UN to begin funneling building materials to Gaza residents
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UN to begin funneling building materials to Gaza residents

Wary of Hamas misuse of construction supplies, organization says it will closely monitor use by needy home owners

Truck at the Kerem Shalom Crossing in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on Nov. 5, 2014 (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Truck at the Kerem Shalom Crossing in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on Nov. 5, 2014 (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Residents of the Gaza Strip whose homes were damaged during this summer’s war between Israel and Hamas will be given access to building materials to repair them as of next week, the UN announced Friday night. Financial assistance will also be offered to home owners for the repairs.

According to a statement by UN Middle East peace process coordinator Robert Serry, the action coordinated between Israel, the UN and Palestinian officials will aid some 25,000 home owners.

Addressing Israeli concern that building materials intended for home reconstruction will be used by terror groups to rebuild tunnels and other terror infrastructure, the UN stressed that “materials procured under the mechanism may only be used for their intended purpose… the United Nations will undertake spot checks to monitor compliance.”

It added that “special precautions have been taken to avoid the misuse of personal information of those wishing to access the mechanism.”

The UN noted that it still lacked the resources needed to aid all those in need, and urged countries who had pledged support at the Cairo conference on Gaza to fulfil their obligations.

In October delegates representing 50 nations at the international conference promised $2.7 billion to rebuild the war-ravaged Gaza Strip. Qatar pledged $1 billion, once again using its vast wealth to reinforce its role as a regional player. Gulf Arab rival the United Arab Emirates promised $200 million. US Secretary of State John Kerry announced immediate American assistance of $212 million. The European Union pledged $568 million, while Turkey, which has been playing a growing role in the Middle East in recent years, said it would donate $200 million.

In all, the donor countries pledged $5.4 billion, though conference organizers said only half of that money would be dedicated to the reconstruction of the coastal strip. The rest was likely to go to budgetary support, boosting economic activity, emergency relief and other projects.

Israeli officials noted at the time that a mechanism had been agreed, with UN involvement, to ensure that international funding not be diverted to finance the rebuilding of Hamas’s military capabilities. But sources quoted by Channel 10 expressed concern that such a mechanism would not hold firm, and the same TV report quoted sources in Gaza as saying there was no practical way to control how such money would be spent.

Organizers of the Cairo conference hope the pledges will be paid over a period of three years to aid reconstruction in the Gaza Strip, which borders Israel and Egypt. Both countries have blockaded Gaza since Hamas took power there in 2007, to prevent the terror group importing more weaponry.

Donors plan to funnel the aid through Palestinian Authority President Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, and aim to bypass Hamas. However, Abbas and Hamas recently formed a national unity government which held its first Cabinet meeting in Gaza in October.

The latest conflict in Gaza killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, the UN says. Israel maintains that approximately half of those were terror operatives, though Palestinians say the majority were civilians. Another 11,000 were wounded, and some 100,000 people remain homeless. Israel blames Hamas for all civilian casualties, arguing that it attacked Israel from within residential areas. Hamas and other terror groups fired over 4,500 rockets and other projectiles at Israel throughout the conflict, and staged several attacks through cross-border tunnels. Seventy-two Israelis were killed.

AP contributed to this report.

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