ceasfire

Rebuilding Gaza. How Much You Think Has Been Pledged? Hint. Not Enough

 
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A Mosque Minaret toppled over, the mosque destroyed in the fighting.

It’s been a little under three weeks since the Gaza – Israel ceasefire. Children have gone back to school in a sombre mood and back to broken classrooms, schools that have been destroyed partially or in total and many families have gone back to homes that are just rubble, with many more hospitals, mosques and other buildings destroyed.

At least 65,000 people in the Gaza Strip are homeless after the recent seven-week conflict. Infrastructure ranging from water desalination centres to power plants lies in ruins.

The seven-year blockade on the Gaza Strip must end to enable reconstruction and a political solution must be found to resolve the conflict, a UN official said on Saturday.

“Huge swathes of Gaza have been levelled. We cannot rebuild it with our hands tied behind our backs,” said Chris Gunness, spokesman for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

The Palestinian Authority said on Thursday that the process of rebuilding whole neighbourhoods and vital infrastructure would take “five years if Israel removed its blockade over Gaza entirely“.

“The attack on Gaza this time had no precedent, Gaza has been hit with a catastrophe and it needs immediate help,” Palestinian economist, Mohammed Shtayyeh, told the Reuters.

An international organisation involved in assessing post-conflict reconstruction says it will take 20 years for Gaza’s battered and neglected housing stock to be rebuilt following the war.

The assessment by Shelter Cluster, co-chaired by the U.N. refugee agency and the Red Cross, underscores the complexities involved in an overall reconstruction program for the Gaza Strip, which some Palestinian officials have estimated could cost almost $8 billion.

Any effort to rebuild Gaza will be hindered by a blockade imposed by Egypt and Israel.

Shelter Cluster’s 20-year assessment is based on the assumption that construction materials will be allowed into Gaza, as promised in the ceasefire. So far, locals say supplies have yet to arrive.

The below from a report produced by OCHA Occupied Palestinian Territories  in collaboration with humanitarian partners.

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Cost Of Rebuilding

Rebuilding Gaza will cost $7.8 billion (£4.7 billion), the Palestinian Authority said on Thursday, in the most comprehensive assessment yet of damage from the seven-week war with Israel. The ground incursion and bombing from the land, air and sea caused huge destruction in Gaza, during which whole neighbourhoods and vital infrastructure were flattened.

Rebuilding Gaza would depend heavily on foreign aid and would require an end to Palestinian rivalry and Israel opening its border crossings, said Mr Shtayyeh, who heads the Palestinian Economic Council for Research and Development (PECDAR)

The cost of rebuilding 17,000 Gazan homes razed by Israeli bombings would be $2.5 billion, the Authority said, and the energy sector needed $250 million after the Strip’s only power plant was destroyed by two Israeli missiles.

UN agencies and the Palestinian Authority are now working on a reconstruction plan which includes rebuilding water, sewerage facilities and electricity supplies.

We can get an idea of the severity of the destruction in Gaza from the video below by Media Town which shows aerial drone footage of Gaza before and after the 7 week assault – this really shows the level of destruction that the worst affected areas now face.

Media Town is a documentary film production and Media services Provider Company, based in Palestine.

The below clip shows the destruction in the Beit Hanoun area.

Progress since Ceasefire

In the 3 weeks since an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire took hold on August 26, little progress has been made in getting the rebuilding under way or settling the bitter political rifts around Gaza.

“If you want aid materials to be permitted to enter, they will almost inevitably come from Israeli sources,” an EU official said. “I don’t think you’ll find it written down anywhere in official policy, but when you get to negotiate with the Israelis, this is what happens. It increases construction and transaction costs, and is a political problem that has to be dealt with.”

As well as Israel’s security restrictions on aid, “it can be very difficult to export materials to Gaza,” the official said. “A lot of goods for a Gaza private sector reconstruction project we had, ended up being held in Ashdod port for very lengthy periods of time – months if not years – so there was de facto no alternative but to use Israeli sources.”

The source added that the policy had benefited Israel’s economy to the tune of millions of euros and was, in his view, deliberate.

Building materials such as steel and cement, necessary for the reconstruction of Gaza, have been designated by Israel as ‘dual use’ items – adaptable for munitions – that may only be imported to Gaza by the UN and aid agencies under Israeli supervision.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli prime ministers’ office, denied claims that Israel’s entry policy to Gaza prevented non-Israeli-made reconstruction materials from entering the Strip.

“I know that policy, and it is not true,” he told EurActiv over the phone from Jerusalem. He was unable though to give examples of non-Israeli reconstruction materials allowed into Gaza, referring inquiries on to Cogat.

Israel eased restrictions on imports of food and construction materials in 2010 following an international outcry over a botched Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla which was trying break the blockade, killing 10 Turks.

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Chart showing the amount of building materials allowed into Gaza

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Occupied Palestinian Territory (OCHAOPT) has just released a report detailing what the 50 day war has cost Gaza so far, including the death toll. The full 37 page report, published on the 27th August, can be found here  – Gaza Initial Rapid Assessment.

Life in Gaza after the destruction
Palestinian women bake bread in front of the remains of their house in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip.  Sourse: ©Reuters/I. Abu Mustafa

Palestinian women bake bread in front of the remains of their house in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip.
Source: ©Reuters/I. Abu Mustafa

“It is enough. We are tired,” said Nasser Mohammed Al-Najjar, 62. “I  lost my wife in the war. I lost my cousins and our homes have been turned into sand.”

It took years for Al-Najjar to build his home and now he, and six family members, are homeless, temporarily sleeping in a UN school. Al-Najjar used to work in Israel, but since 2000 when he was laid off from work, he has tried to live off his land, which was also damaged when bulldozers break into his neighbourhood, east of Khan Younis.

“No one cares about us,” he said.

In another UN school shelter in Khan Younis sits 42-year-old Rasem Abu-Zaed, 42. He had been living in Jordan for more than 15 years and working as a taxi driver which gave him enough money to feed his wife and four children. Then, Abu-Zaed decided to return to Gaza.

In Gaza, he said he has found freedom to express his views, but he has not found stability, nor security. Yet despite the knowledge that it could be 20 years before his family home is rebuilt – and that his one-year-old son, Musbah, will then be an adult – he said he does not want to return to Jordan.

“I felt something fishy the moment ceasefire was announced,” he said. “I asked myself, ‘Why would this work when Israel has the position of power to violate ceasefires?'”

Abu-Zaed said he and his family had heard the news from international bodies that it will take 20 years to rebuild Gaza.

“But we never heard of what they will do to challenge that,” he said.

“The aggression on Gaza has not yet ended. I still feel like I am in a war zone, as the armed drones are still roaming Gaza skies every single second. Nothing actually has improved or changed in our miserable daily life in Gaza. We have 12 hours of electricity outages every day and the borders are shut down. We had great hope that our life will get better soon after an immense loss of our people and infrastructures in the latest Gaza attack. However, there is not even a prospect of improvements in the near future for us.” (The mother of Ayman Qwaider, a Palestinian from Gaza now living in Australia)

Rubble Bucket Challenge

“I can only think of this ceasefire as a pillow that was squeezed against the face of an-already-dying patient to suffocate his/her screams so that he/she dies quickly and quietly.” (Maysam Yusef, a 25-year-old Palestinian in Gaza now studying for a bachelor’s degree in media and politics,

After the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS went viral, Gaza activist Maysam Yusef, 24, started the Rubble Bucket campaign the day before the ceasefire was announced with the Facebook page Rubble Bucket Challenge to raise awareness.

“The whole point is to gain attention,” Yusef said, “because Gaza doesn’t need money, it needs someone to stop this.”

The campaign invites social media users to douse themselves in sand, gravel, and other materials from buildings that have been destroyed during Israel’s seven-week military offensive. The choice of materials was both deliberate and necessary: they couldn’t use ice water, participants say, due to deteriorating conditions on the ground.

The Challenge has reached Jordan, Morroco and even the US, with Pro-Palestinian Activists in Washington taking the challenge as can be seen in the International Business Times UK report above.

The Conflict by Numbers

The 50 days of war in Gaza resulted in damage that the UN said is “Unprecedented since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967.” Here’s a closer look at the conflict by the numbers by AJ+.

Gaza – Israel Conflict: Numbers Behind The Destruction In Gaza

Pledges of reconstruction aid abound—$93 million from the United Arab Emirates, $10 million from Kuwait, $5 million from Bahrain. But Palestinians say the pace of rebuilding will depend on what goods Egypt and Israel let through their borders.

However, the biggest loss is the loss of human life, the livelihoods of Gazan’s, the children who are suffering from post traumatic stress.

And an amount cannot be put on this. Gazan’s continue to strive and will carry on rebuilding, just as they have done after previous conflicts – they have no other choice but to continue living and trying to live life as best they can.

 

What, If Anything, Has Changed On The Ground For Either Side As A Result Of The War?

 
On Tuesday, after almost 7 weeks of conflict, Palestinian and Israel leaders agreed an open ended ceasefire brokered by the Egyptians

Rocket fire and air strikes had continued until the last moments right up to the 4pm deadline

Just minutes after the cease fire agreement was announced, thousands of Palestinians poured onto the streets of Gaza City to celebrate what was being touted as a victory. Mosques announced the victory over the loudspeakers.

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Night of Joy and Happiness

 

Denny Cormier, an American who has been living in Gaza for the past few months, talks about the scenes of joy and happiness in Gaza on Tuesday night in a Facebook status. He says it was “a night when thousands and thousands came to celebrate” and “the prayers filled Gaza and were the first reactions to the cease fire”

Rina Andolini, an International Aid Worker in Gaza throughout the conflict, posted pictures of a party held for the children of Gaza.

“We have mixed feelings. We are in pain for the losses but we are also proud we fought this war alone and we were not broken,” said Gaza teacher Ahmed Awf, 55, as he held his two-year-old son in his arms and joined in the street festivities.
Whatever tomorrow may bring; tonight was a time to rejoice as Gaza’s people celebrated the end of hostilities and the lifting of the 7 year siege.

 

The Telegraph posted this album showing the celebrations taking place: Gaza ceasefire in pictures: Palestinians celebrate truce between Hamas and Israel

Ceasefire

The cease fire brokered by the Egyptians is currently holding – an interim agreement in exchange for a period of calm.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, also confirmed that a ceasefire had been reached, saying that it was time to rebuild Gaza.

“An end to the killing will come at the same time as the entry of humanitarian, medical and building materials,” Abbas said.

The United States and United Nations urged both sides to comply with the terms of the agreement.

“We are all aware that this is an opportunity, not a certainty,” said US Secretary of State John Kerry. “We have been down this road before and we are all aware of the challenges ahead.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also welcomed the truce. But in a statement via his spokesman, Mr Ban warned that “any peace effort that does not tackle the root causes of the crisis will do little more than set the stage for the next cycle of violence”.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced strong criticism in Israel over a costly conflict with Palestinian fighters in which no clear victor emerged

However, Hamas, though badly battered, is still claiming this as a “victory for the resistance” as they remain in control of Gaza.

At a press conference at the Shifa hospital in Gaza City, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said: “Hamas is grateful to the people of Gaza who sacrificed their homes, children and money. We announce the victory today after achieving our goals.”

He added: “[Israeli prime minister Binyamin] Netanyahu has failed to force Gaza to surrender. Yes, we defeated them by our standing and our resistance. We will stand by our people and we won’t leave them.”

The terms of the deal – brokered by the Egyptian government, and reached on the 50th day of the conflict – appeared to be almost identical to those agreed at the end of the previous war 21 months ago.

Under the terms that ended more than a week of fighting in 2012, Israel promised to ease restrictions gradually, while Hamas promised to halt rocket fire from Gaza at Israel.

The truce held, but Gaza’s border blockade remained largely intact.

Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade in 2007.

Under the restrictions, virtually all of Gaza’s 1.8 million people cannot trade or travel, and only a few thousand are able to leave the coastal territory every month.

mousa-abu-marzouk

Deputy Head of Hamas’s Political Bureau Musa Abu Marzouk [Pictured above] explained the terms of the current ceasefire deal agreed between the Palestinian Resistance and the Israeli occupation.

He said the deal fully ended the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip, halting all Israeli, American and EU restrictions on money transfers, included holding an international conference on the reconstruction of the Strip and stopping Israel’s tracking and assassination of Palestinian resistance fighters.

Abu Marzouk added that the deal is based on the understandings that ended the Israeli war against the Gaza Strip in 2012.

But this time, the Israeli occupation is to stick to opening the crossings for the entrance of humanitarian and relief aid, as well as all reconstruction materials.

Abu Marzouk added that the deal is based on the understandings that ended the Israeli war against the Gaza Strip in 2012. But this time, the Israeli occupation is to stick to opening the crossings for the entrance of humanitarian and relief aid, as well as all reconstruction materials.

The conditions of the truce

Both sides agreed to address more complex issues later with talks agreed to start in a month. Factions will discuss the construction of a seaport and airport in Gaza and the freeing of about 100 prisoners.

A US state department spokeswoman said: “We call on all parties to fully and completely comply with its terms, and hope very much that the ceasefire will prove to be durable and sustainable. We view this as an opportunity, not a certainty. There is a long road ahead and we’re aware of that, and we’re going into this eyes wide open.”

The deal follows at least eight temporary ceasefires during the course of the conflict.

Following are the immediate terms of what is in this Interim Gaza Peace deal between Israel & Hamas.

  • Both sides to end military action
  • Gaza Crossings – Only two out of the five Gaza crossings are presently functioning. The deal stipulates Israel’s commitment to opening the other three crossings. Regarding the Rafah Crossing, Abu Marzouk said there would be a Palestinian-Egyptian meeting to specify the demands for its full re-opening and called for this meeting to happen as soon as possible. Israel agrees to open more border crossings with Gaza to allow the easier flow of goods
  • Egypt to open its border with Gaza at Rafah
  • The Palestinian Authority (PA), which is headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, will take over operation of Gaza’s borders from Hamas – a bid to reduce weapons smuggling
  • The PA will lead the internationally funded reconstruction effort in Gaza
  • Israel to narrow the security buffer along the inside of the Gaza border, to allow Palestinians more access to farm land
  • Fishing and buffer zone – Israel will extend fishing limits off Gaza’s coast. The fishing zone is to be expanded to six nautical miles and to be gradually expanded to 12 miles at a later date, but before the end of this year.
  • Money transfers and Gaza employees – Israeli, American and European restrictions on money transfers into the Strip were lifted and the ball is now in the court of the Palestinian unity government to pay Gaza employees’ salaries.
  • Reconstruction of Gaza – Abu Marzouk explained that the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip would be discussed at a conference slated to be held next month in Egypt. Preparations for this conference are to start after inviting all the related parties to take part in the reconstruction process. The Palestinian unity government is to run the reconstruction dossier.

The Hamas official, who participated in the Palestinian delegation to the indirect talks in Cairo, said Egypt is the only guarantor for the deal, and that a new round of talks are to start within a month to discuss the other issues, like prisoners, the seaport and airport.

He said that the Israeli occupation would stop targeting senior Hamas commanders, and would allow them free movement throughout the Gaza Strip, stressing that this is the point that had postponed reaching a deal at an earlier stage.

What has Changed?

Now for the inevitable question: What, if anything, has changed on the ground for either side as a result of the war?

In Gaza, the war exacted a devastating price.

After 50 days of fighting, residents face billions of dollars of damage in Gaza.

Source: NBC News

It is impossible to find a Palestinian there who was untouched by the conflict. Families lost loved ones. Neighborhoods were completely destroyed. More than 100,000 people were displaced, according to the United Nations. Businesses, factories, shops and warehouses were demolished by Israeli bombs.

Gaza’s economy is in ruins.

More than 2,200 people have been killed – the vast majority of them Palestinian, more than 11,000 wounded and some 100,000 left homeless with some entire neighbourhoods destroyed.

Basha-Tower-1 destroyed

 

Aid workers warn that mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress, will haunt a generation of Palestinian children, some of whom have now lived through three wars in six years.

So an easing of the blockade will allow humanitarian aid and construction materials to be drip-fed into the Strip. It will most likely not revive the economy or restore livelihoods of families who lost everything.

Denny Cormier posted this on his Facebook timeline on Friday “As an outside observer – and on the ground supporter – let me observe that things are worse now than they were earlier in 2014 – certainly worse than just before the war.

Although we are still celebrating victory, the good people of Gaza are suffering.”

Seven weeks after the war started, the conflict stands where it began, except that now thousands of lives are in ruins.

While, each side claims to be the victor: The countdown until the next round of violence is already ticking.