Hope among the ruins: Gaza looks to aid to rebuild -PHOTO

Rubble is strewn in almost every street in towns, villages and refugee camps in the densely packed, sliver-like territory of 1.8 million people

Hope among the ruins: Gaza looks to aid to rebuild -PHOTO

World Bulletin/News Desk

Glass and debris littered the road to Ahed Marouf's house in a northern Gaza town on Monday as he rode on a donkey cart with his wife on three children to check on their home during a seven-hour truce declared by Israel.

What they saw when they reached Beit Lahiya, near the Israeli border, persuaded them to return to their temporary shelter in a U.N.-run school in nearby Jabalya refugee camp.

"It did not feel safe," said Marouf, a 30-year-old farmer. "At our house, windows were shattered. There is no electricity and no water."

Along with thousands of other residents, Marouf and his family fled Beit Lahiya during fierce attacks by Israeli forces. Israel attacked from the air and ground while resistance fighters responded with mortar bombs.

On the main road leading to Beit Lahiya, a cluster of high-rise apartment buildings that had housed hundreds of low-income families looked as if it had been peppered by tank fire, seemingly damaged beyond repair.

"Only a permanent ceasefire involving both sides would persuade us to go home to stay. For now, we remain in the U.N. school," said Marouf's wife, Mervat, 23.

She said the war had gone on too long and complained she could not treat her children for flu and stomach pains at local hospitals because they have been overwhelmed by wounded from Israeli bombardments.

In Gaza City, dozens of people lined up outside banks and automatic teller machines to withdraw cash.

Others packed into grocery stores during the ceasefire, which Palestinians accused Israel of violating in a bomb attack they said killed an eight-year-old girl and wounded 29 other people in a Gaza refugee camp.

"Destruction is all over Gaza," Mervat Marouf said. "We come in sadness. We go in sadness."

DESTRUCTION MORE WIDESPREAD

Reconstruction in Gaza, where heavy Israeli bombardment has caused widespread devastation and displaced half a million people, will cost at least $6 billion, the Palestinian deputy prime minister says.

This time, Mohammed Mustafa said, Palestinians hope future donors will make good on aid pledges. In 2009, only a fraction of the nearly $5 billion in funds promised at an international conference after a three-week Israeli attacks.

"Once a ceasefire is reached, we will have to tackle the immediate problem of rehousing those who lost their homes," Mustafa told Reuters. "According to our estimates, they may number 400,000 people."

The West Bank-based government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has already been in touch with the United States, the European Union, Arab states and the World Bank to hold a donors' summit after the guns fall silent, Mustafa said.

Qatar, a major ally of the Hamas might contribute generously to a rebuilding effort. Last year, the wealthy Gulf Arab state began executing construction projects in the Gaza Strip at the cost of more than $400 million.

Contacted by Reuters in Doha, a Qatari official said his country would be ready to provide money for humanitarian aid purposes, but not directly to Hamas itself.

INFRASTRUCTURE

The destruction in the current conflict, now in its fourth week, is more widespread than it was in 2009. Rubble - including from homes and factories that were hit by Israeli shelling and rebuilt after the fighting five years ago - is strewn in almost every street in towns, villages and refugee camps in the densely packed, sliver-like territory of 1.8 million people.

"There is a need to build 100,000 housing units," Mustafa said, adding that a Palestinian government committee has begun assessing the damage and the $6 billion figure was only an initial estimate.

Vital infrastructure must also be rebuilt.

Eighty percent of the population has had electricity for only four hours since Gaza's only power plant was disabled by two Israeli missiles that struck fuel tanks. According to the British charity Oxfam, two-thirds of Gaza residents have been affected by damage to sewerage and water infrastructure.

But Israel clamped severe limits on cement and steel imports into Gaza as part of a blockade of the coastal enclave.

CHANGED POLITICAL LANDSCAPE

But the Palestinian political landscape recently changed in a way that could ease the flow of reconstruction aid, especially with Western countries voicing mounting alarm at the scale of physical ruin and civilian casualties.

In April, Hamas and Abbas's Palestine Liberation Organization signed a reconciliation deal that led to the formation of a unity government of technocrats.

"Attracting money should be easier now through the unity government. Excuses made in the past by international donors, such as the internal division (of Palestinians), are no longer valid," said Maher al-Tabbaa of the Gaza Chamber of Commerce.

Abbas has pledged to lobby for support for post-war Gaza and has also been a critical player in ceasefire efforts brokered by the United States, the United Nations and Egypt.

Hamas has made an end to Israel's blockade and one imposed by Egypt, which is hostile to the group as well, a pivotal demand in negotiations on a long-term ceasefire.

"We demand that our house be built again. We will build it again and make it even nicer," said Maher Al-Araeer, 45, standing in the rubble of his house in the Shejaia district in Gaza City, where 72 people were killed and hundreds of homes destroyed.

Human rights groups said at least 520,000 people have been displaced by the hostilities. Many have found shelter in U.N.-run schools, some of which have come under Israeli attack, while others have crammed into relatives' homes or are living on the street.

When the hostilities end, temporary dwellings may have to be found for tens of thousands until their homes can be rebuilt.

More than 1,800 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed in the fighting, Gaza health officials say, compared with some 1,400 dead in the 2008-09 war. Israel, which lost 13 dead then, says 64 of its soldiers and three civilians have been killed this time in what it terms "Operation Protective Edge".

Güncelleme Tarihi: 04 Ağustos 2014, 14:53
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