US: Israel must play role in rebuilding Gaza
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US: Israel must play role in rebuilding Gaza

Ahead of donor conference in Cairo, State Department says range of countries to contribute funds following 50-day conflict

A Palestinian family walks on August 27, 2014, past the collapsed remains of a building in Shejaiya that was destroyed in fighting between Hamas and Israel. (AFP/ROBERTO SCHMIDT)
A Palestinian family walks on August 27, 2014, past the collapsed remains of a building in Shejaiya that was destroyed in fighting between Hamas and Israel. (AFP/ROBERTO SCHMIDT)

Israel must play a role in the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, a top US official said Wednesday ahead of key donor talks in Cairo, also pressing all sides to agree to a lasting ceasefire.

US Secretary of State John Kerry will attend Sunday’s reconstruction conference being co-hosted in Cairo by Egypt and Norway and billed by the US as a “major humanitarian assistance and reconstruction effort” after the devastating 50-day war between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist terror group which runs the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian government has unveiled a 76-page reconstruction plan for Gaza, calling for $4 billion to rebuild the war-battered territory, with the largest amount going to build housing for some 100,000 left homeless.

Washington has already pledged some $118 million to help the Palestinians in Gaza and State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said she expected there to be “a range of countries in the international community who are going to be contributing” funds at the Cairo talks.

“We do think that Israel will need to play a role in Gaza reconstruction,” Psaki stressed.

“We were pleased to see that the UN, Israel and the Palestinian Authority agreed on procedures aimed at expediting the passage of relief materials into Gaza, while taking into account Israel’s security needs,” Psaki told reporters.

But she would not be drawn on whether US aid should be contingent on guarantees of a lasting ceasefire to ensure the money was not wasted in any future fighting.

“Ideally we’d like to see an agreement on a way forward for a sustainable ceasefire that addresses the long-term issues so we don’t have the recurring conflict,” Psaki said.

Kerry would likely have talks on the sidelines on the issue, “but it’s not the primary focus. They’ll have to reconvene the parties to have that discussion separately from this conference,” she added.

The Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip killed nearly 2,200 people, at least half of them combatants according to Israel, while 72 died on the Israeli side, 66 of them soldiers. Israel blames Hamas for all fatalities, since it emplaced its war machine in residential areas. Hamas fired some 4,500 rockets and projectiles at Israel and staged several attacks through tunnels dug under the border.

The war ended in August with a temporary ceasefire, and indirect negotiations for a permanent truce are due to resume under Egyptian mediation later this month.

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