Gaza's broken promises

Gaza's broken promises
Aid groups urge world to deliver on aid promises for Gaza reconstruction and pressure Israel to lift its blockade following devastation from the 2014 war.
3 min read
13 April, 2015
Living conditions in the territory of 1.8 million people have only worsened [Anadolu]

A coalition of international aid groups urged the world on Monday to deliver on aid promises for Gaza reconstruction and pressure Israel to lift its blockade of the territory, where rebuilding efforts have stalled since last summer's Israel-Hamas war.

Donor countries pledged $3.5 billion six months ago for rebuilding thousands of homes and businesses destroyed in the war, but reconstruction has barely begun and living conditions in the territory of 1.8 million people have only worsened, according to a report by the Association of International Development Agencies.

The report, signed by 46 aid groups, said only open borders and a durable Israel-Hamas cease-fire can bring economic, social and political stability to Gaza.

     Not a single destroyed home has been rebuilt... About 100,000 people are still displaced

Otherwise, "a return to conflict - and the cycles of damage and donor-funded reconstruction that accompany it - is inevitable," the report said.

The groups said the international community should adopt a new Gaza policy, including by pressuring Israel to lift what they said is an illegal blockade.

The report said most donors have been trying to work around the border restrictions, rather than challenging them.

Israel and Egypt have been enforcing tight access and trade restrictions since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized Gaza in 2007.

Under the closure rules, the vast majority of Gaza residents cannot travel or export, though Israel permits imports of consumer goods to the territory.

Israel and Egypt say they need to maintain the closure because Hamas poses a security threat to them.

Israel has fought three wars on Gaza in the past six years, in part, it says, to try to halt rocket fire on Israeli towns.

READ ALSO: Gaza rebuild 'will take century unless siege is lifted'

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon dismissed the report as "hostile and one-sided."

Many are still living in tents pitched on rubble (Anadolu/Getty)

"The report pretends to present the root causes of the conflict, ignoring totally and deliberately that the root cause of the conflict is the refusal of the Palestinian side to accept Israel's right of existence and its legitimacy," he said.

He said Monday's report ignored events leading up to the 2014 war, including the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank and a spike in Hamas rocket fire on Israel.

The 2014 war was the most devastating for Gaza's 1.8 million people, killing more than 2,200 Palestinians, a majority of them civilians, according to UN figures.

Seventy-two people were killed on the Israeli side, including 66 soldiers.

The report said about 19,000 homes were destroyed or severely damaged in Gaza, while another 134,000 suffered some damage but are fit to live in.

About 100,000 people are still displaced, living in UN schools, tents pitched on rubble or rented apartments and storefronts.

In October, donor countries and international organisations pledged $3.5 billion for Gaza.

So far, only $945 million, or 26.8 percent, has been released, the report said.

Israel has been allowing imports of some cement and steel for reconstruction under a UN-brokered post-war arrangement, easing restrictions it said were imposed to prevent Hamas from diverting materials for military use.

The new mechanism has made cement available for the repair of tens of thousands of homes, but many homeowners cannot afford it, according to Monday's report. It said not a single destroyed home has been rebuilt.

"Six months after the donor conference, little tangible change has taken place on the ground in Gaza and living conditions for women, girls, men and boys continue to worsen," the report said.