World Bulletin/News Desk
A group of Palestinians whose homes in the Gaza Strip were destroyed during this summer's destructive Israeli offensive demonstrated Thursday near the Erez border crossing to demand the swift reconstruction of the war-battered Palestinian enclave.
"The international community and human rights groups should pressure Israel to ease restrictions on the entry of construction materials [into Gaza] so we can start rebuilding Gaza's demolished homes," Moein Abu Okal, a spokesman for the Hamas-affiliated Popular Front for Refugees' Affairs, which organized Thursday's protest, told The Anadolu Agency.
Protesters held posters aloft decrying a reconstruction plan tabled by Robert Serry, the UN's "special coordinator" for the Middle East peace process.
The controversial plan, which aims to impose strict oversight on the use of construction materials in rebuilding the war-battered coastal enclave, has been criticized by Palestinian factions and NGOs, which say that it unnecessarily prolongs the reconstruction process.
"The UN must alter the terms of the reconstruction plan, which impedes the entire process," Abu Okal said.
"Owners of destroyed homes are in a tragic state," he added. "Many of them are still homeless as a result of the UN plan."
Distributing building supplies
Meanwhile, officials from several Gazan construction and cement firms on Wednesday staged a demonstration near the Kerem Shalom border crossing to protest plans to prevent their companies from importing building supplies into the blockaded Gaza Strip.
Protesting officials stopped trucks carrying cement from entering the coastal strip via the tripartite crossing.
Kerem Shalom – which links Egypt, Israel and Gaza – represents the blockaded strip's only functioning commercial crossing.
The owners of local brick factories carried placards on which they demanded the fair distribution of construction materials in the Gaza Strip.
"We need our factories to work," they wrote on their placards, describing the current system for the distribution of construction materials in Gaza as "unfair."
Three months ago, the Palestinian Civilian Affairs Authority, which is responsible for bringing construction materials into Gaza, approved a shortlist of companies allowed to receive and distribute the building materials required for the reconstruction of the war-battered Gaza Strip.
"We have come today to protest the mechanism for the distribution of construction material," Rawhi al-Qiq, the owner of a construction company in Gaza and participant in Wednesday's protest, told The Anadolu Agency.
"We demand that the mechanism be amended so that all companies are allowed to import construction materials," he said.
He added that in coming days local construction companies would step up their opposition to the arrangement.
On December 16, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry announced that the UN would broker an agreement between the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority and Israel to allow the entry of construction materials into the strip while also ensuring that these materials were not used for anything other than reconstruction.
During Israel's recent 51-day military onslaught on Gaza, 15,671 housing units were damaged across the coastal enclave, including 2,276 that were completely destroyed, according to official Palestinian figures.
More than 2,160 Gazans, mostly civilians, were killed – and another 11,000 injured – during seven weeks of unrelenting Israeli attacks on the embattled strip throughout July and August.
The offensive finally ended on August 26 with the announcement of an indefinite cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian resistance factions.
At an October 12 donor conference in Cairo, 50 countries pledged a total of $5.4 billion to the Palestinian government, half of which was earmarked for reconstruction of the devastated strip.
Israel frequently voices fears that building supplies will be used by Palestinian factions in Gaza to build tunnels and military fortifications.
According to Israeli and western diplomatic sources, the UN plan also calls for the deployment of "international observers" to monitor the Gaza reconstruction process.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 18 Aralık 2014, 16:05