Arabs Vow Gaza Aid, Differ on Mechanism

Arab leaders vowed on Tuesday, January 20, to help rebuild the Gaza Strip after it was left in ruin by 22 days of massive Israeli bombardment, but failed to agree on a specific mechanism to do the job.

"The Arab leaders promise to provide all forms of support for the reconstruction of Gaza," said the final statement of the two-day Kuwait summit read out by Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa.

"We welcome all contributions pledged so far by Arab countries."

Addressing the opening session of the summit, Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz announced the donation of $1 billion for rebuilding Gaza’s infrastructure, devastated by three weeks of Israeli bombing.

Host Kuwait pledged $34 million to cover urgent needs of the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

Qatar, a third Gulf country, announced last week a $250-million contribution for the reconstruction of the impoverished, sealed-off Palestinian coastal enclave, home to 1.6 million.

The 22-day Israeli onslaught, its deadliest-ever against Gaza, killed more than 1312 people, nearly half of them civilians, and left more than 5400 wounded, hundreds of them seriously.

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics says 4,100 homes have been totally destroyed and 17,000 others damaged in the Israeli air, sea and land bombing.

About 1,500 factories and workshops, 25 mosques, 31 government buildings and 10 water or sewage pipes were also damaged.

The bureau estimates the physical damage so far to about $1.9bn (£1.4bn), including about $200m (£140m) of damage to infrastructure.

Differences

Other than the "pledges" the Arab leaders failed to announce the creation of any fund for the reconstructing of Gaza.

There was also no mechanism of when or how the pledged money would be dispersed.

Arab countries were reportedly divided on which of the Palestinian parties, the West Bank government of Mahmoud Abbas or his rival Hamas which controls Gaza, would be responsible for the rebuilding.

The Doha-based Aljazeera news network said Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other countries had expressed reservations about giving money to Hamas.

Israel, the US and their European allies are eager to prevent Hamas taking charge of reconstruction because this might add to its political standing among Palestinians.

Israeli premier Ehud Olmert stressed on Tuesday they will allow reconstruction efforts in the Gaza Strip only if Hamas does not lead the process.

"Israel believes that the reconstruction process must be led by international organizations in cooperation with the UN, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority."

Israel has for many months prevented construction materials from cross the border into Gaza.

The reconstruction is expected to be a huge challenge because of the sheer scale of the devastation caused by Israel, the economic siege imposed on Gaza and the attempt to exclude Hamas.

"The rebuilding of Gaza after the Israeli bombardment already faces unique problems and is likely to be the most difficult reconstruction project in the world," The Independent said Tuesday.

"Until Gaza has continual access to the outside world, any real reconstruction will be impossible," cautioned the British daily.

"If Gaza is to be restored even to the miserable condition it was in before 27 December, then the economic siege has to be lifted."
 
(IslamOnline.net and Agencies)

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