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Qatar leads $5.4bn international pledge to rebuild Gaza

A neighbourhood of Gaza on October 11
A neighbourhood of Gaza on October 11 Mahmoud Hams, AFP

Qatar has promised the largest aid package among donors gathered in Cairo to raise funds for reconstruction in the Gaza Strip, which was left devastated following this summer’s 50-day war between Israel and Hamas

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“The state of Qatar announces its participation with an amount of $1 billion for the reconstruction of Gaza,” Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiya told a conference in the Egyptian capital, attended by representatives from dozens of countries and international organisations.

The $4 billion in aid sought from participants was exceeded as intended donations totalled $5.4 billion, Norway's foreign minister said Sunday evening. European Union member states have made a combined pledge for €450 million ($570 million) and US Secretary of State John Kerry announced $212 million in new aid from the United States. Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait promised $200 million each.

Prior to the meeting, it was unclear how generous donors would be, given the lack of progress towards resolving the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the risk that hostilities could erupt again, destroying whatever has been rebuilt.

FRANCE 24's Ashraf Khalil reports from Cairo conference

“Everyone who speaks seems to note that they've been here before for the exact same reason,” said FRANCE 24 correspondent Ashraf Khalil from the conference. Yet “nobody has come forward with any sort of different approach that would change what seems to be this ongoing cycle of Gazan destruction followed by Gazan reconstruction,” he added.

The US Secretary of State  dismissed such concerns, stressing the urgent need to begin rebuilding in the Palestinian enclave.

“The people of Gaza do need our help desperately, not tomorrow, not next week, but they need it now,” Kerry said in a speech before his counterparts in Cairo, during which he also called for a renewed commitment to achieving lasting peace in the Middle East.

'Work for peace'

“Out of this conference must come not just money, but a renewed commitment from everybody to work for peace that meets the aspirations of all, for Israelis, for Palestinians for all people of this region. And I promise you the full commitment of President Obama, myself and the United States to try to do that,” Kerry said.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Al-Hamdallah has put the full cost of reconstruction at about $4 billion over three years in Gaza, where an estimated 18,000 homes were destroyed and infrastructure was badly battered during the conflict.

FRANCE 24's Khalil cautioned that "a lot of caveats and asterisks" applied to the funds promised on Sunday. "Not all of the money that was pledged in the hotel ballroom actually reached Gaza" after similar conferences followed the two previous flare-ups in the conflict, he said.

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in the fighting, which began in July with Israel saying it was determined to put an end to rocket fire from Gaza. Sixty-seven Israeli soldiers and six civilians were also killed.

The latest round of US-brokered peace talks foundered in April over Israeli objections to a Palestinian political unity pact including the Islamist Hamas movement and Palestinian objections to unremitting Israeli settlement growth.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, who brokered the latest ceasefire in Gaza, called for the restoration of the Palestinian Authority's rule on the Hamas-controlled strip and urged Israelis and Palestinians to consider a 2002 peace plan designed by Saudi Arabia.

“The status quo must not continue, cannot be returned to, and that any attempt to bring about temporary stability will not last long,” Sisi said.

The conference in Cairo was co-sponsored by Egypt and Norway in cooperation with the United Nations, European Union and Arab League. In September, the US announced $118 million in humanitarian assistance for Gaza, and Saudi Arabia has also pledged funds.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)

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