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Rebuilding Gaza: The huge cost of Israel's devastating war

Rebuilding Gaza: The huge cost of Israel's devastating war
7 min read
Turkey - Istanbul
27 November, 2023
In-depth: Initial forecasts put the cost of Israel's destruction in Gaza at $50 billion, but that figure is likely to rise as the war continues.

Discussion on Gaza's reconstruction has begun early, with initial predictions forecasting costs as high as $50 billion due to the enormous scale of destruction Israel's brutal and unprecedented assault on the besieged enclave has caused.

In this framework, President Tayyip Erdogan announced last week that Turkey will make mammoth efforts to rebuild hospitals, schools, and other destroyed infrastructure as soon as a ceasefire is implemented.

US President Joe Biden has also raised the issue of Gaza's reconstruction. Last Saturday he wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post where he stated the international community needed to "establish a reconstruction mechanism to sustainably meet Gaza's long-term needs".

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Turkish pledges among regional fears

In the context of these discussions, Turkish researcher Alaeddin Senguler clarified that Erdogan's pledge didn't imply Turkey's willingness to bear all of the reconstruction expenses - which may exceed $50 billion once the Israeli aggression halts - but that it may offer to rebuild some facilities, including the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital and other structures which have been flattened.

Senguler, who specialises in economic and feasibility studies, told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arab's Arabic-language edition, that Erdogan's statement was issued against a backdrop of fear among regional leaders of announcing plans to offer reconstruction assistance, or of sending supplies or reconstruction technicians.

Erdogan, however, is confident Turkey has the specialists, building companies, contractors, and primary materials which will enable it to contribute significantly to the reconstruction effort in Gaza, stated Senguler. This would follow in-depth discussions and agreements with supporting states, international organisations, and after the necessary funds have been raised to cover the reconstruction costs.

However, he points out that the war of destruction that Israel declared after the 7 October Hamas attacks is not yet over, which makes estimating the scale of the damage and likely costs of rebuilding difficult.

Last Sunday, Erdogan told journalists: "If a ceasefire is reached, we will do everything necessary to compensate for the destruction caused by Israel," confirming that Turkey would make efforts to rebuild damaged infrastructure, schools, hospitals, and water and energy plants.

Costs of reconstruction in the devastated Gaza Strip have been estimated at $50 billion currently but will rise if Israel's assault continues, as is expected. [Getty]

Legal efforts to investigate Israeli crimes

Erdogan has also called for an international investigation into Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip. During a speech he gave at the 62nd session of the General Assembly of the National Union of Turkish Students in Istanbul, he said over 2,000 Turkish lawyers would be submitting "a complaint to the relevant parties against the genocide in Gaza, and we will follow this matter up to its end, and the price for it will be paid".

He stressed the urgency of following up on Israel's crimes and investigating them on an international level, insisting that "the oppressors must get the punishment they deserve […]. If every terrorist entity just slaughtered people as they liked, drawing strength and support from states like the US and Europe, then this would mean the global order is completely corrupt," he added.

Turkish analyst Samir Saliha repeated the essential prerequisite that Israel's war on Gaza ends before talks about reconstruction and cost calculations can start. Neither of these is possible while the bombing continues, especially as Israel has signalled its intention to widen its area of operations, which bodes even further destruction and ruin in Gaza.

He confirmed the Turkish government was firstly striving to mobilise international support for a ceasefire, as well as its reconstruction pledges. Turkey was also facilitating aid to be delivered via Egypt, on the one side, and was taking part in the Freedom Flotilla which aims to break the siege and supply the people of Gaza with food and medicines – which was being prepared to attempt to reach Gaza from another direction.

Saliha mentioned Turkey's recent experience in swift reconstruction, pointing out the rebuilding efforts in the ten Turkish states which had suffered severely in the massive earthquake that hit the region in February. The quake destroyed or damaged more than 1.2 million buildings and led to the deaths of over 43,000 people.

Reconstruction talks 'too early'

Israel's war has caused extensive damage to hundreds of schools and hospitals, and has left Gaza's sole electricity plant and much of its solar power infrastructure defunct. It has destroyed 50 government buildings, three water pumping stations, and taken six water desalination plants out of service.

In light of this, Mahmoud Zaghmout from the London-based Action Group for Palestinians of Syria, thinks talk about reconstruction is too early, and that what everybody should be focussing on and discussing are Israel's crimes against "our people in Gaza", which are war crimes, amounting to genocide and ethnic cleansing.

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In his view, talking about reconstruction, aid, or even setting up support and financing funds – as is done after every war on Gaza – only pushes Israel to commit more crimes and to feel a sense of impunity. This is not to deny the necessity of reconstruction and sheltering of our people after their homes have been demolished, he adds.

Zaghmout states that the extent of the destruction is unprecedented, and has affected more than 45,000 residential units in northern Gaza. When it comes to education facilities, he says, "we are in front of 244 schools having been destroyed, the last was the Al Fakhoura School, and the massacre that resulted from that".

Likewise the Israeli war has left the following hospitals destroyed or defunct: the Indonesian Hospital, The International Eye Hospital, Beit Hanoun Hospital, Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, the Jordanian field hospital, Al-Shifa Hospital, and the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital.

Zaghmout says due to international silence the aggression is likely to expand from a ground invasion targeting the cities of northern Gaza to Rafah in the south, which will increase the devastation and the rebuilding costs for as long as the war continues. However there are estimates, he says, which match those issued by the Arab League.

"To date, we are looking at the destruction of, or going out of use of, 35 hospitals. Returning them to work will cost between $1.7 and $2 billion. We are looking at ongoing destruction of schools […] affecting 550 schools – rebuilding them and returning them to work will cost around $2.1 billion."

While reiterating the difficulty of accurately estimating the extent of the damage, Zaghmout does not think reconstruction will cost less than $40 billion.

He concludes, saying that the Gaza strip was besieged and impoverished, even before the current war, and all sectors of the economy were in a dire state as a result of Israeli policies. He expects a "bleak future" for Gaza, after Israel expelled all Gazan workers employed in Israel, and has destroyed "everything".

At the Extraordinary Joint Arab-Islamic Summit in Riyadh on 11 November, the final statement emphasised the need to "mobilise international partners to reconstruct Gaza and mitigate the effects of the comprehensive destruction caused by the Israeli aggression" as soon as it stops. It also called for the establishment of a fund for Gaza's reconstruction.

Among the "solution mechanisms" proposed by the summit, without specifying methods or assigning specific countries, was the establishment of an Arab and Islamic financial safety net to support Gaza, in addition to calling for increased international funding.

The cost of reconstruction after Israel's 2014 offensive in Gaza, Operation Protective Edge, was estimated at around $8 billion. Following the last major Israeli assault in May 2021, many states didn’t honour their reconstruction pledges, which proceeded extremely slowly as a result.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition. To read the original article click here.

Translated by Rose Chacko

This article is taken from our Arabic sister publication, Al-Araby Al Jadeed and mirrors the source's original editorial guidelines and reporting policies. Any requests for correction or comment will be forwarded to the original authors and editors.

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