International donors began making aid pledges expected to exceed $3 billion to the Palestinian Authority on Monday mainly to rebuild Gaza and Hamas is not invited to the conference.
But the United Nations and aid agencies warned that rebuilding the coastal enclave was a daunting task as long as border crossings between Israel and Gaza remained closed.
"The situation at the border crossings is intolerable. Aid workers do not have access. Essential commodities cannot get in," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told donors at a one-day conference on Gaza in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh.
"Our first and indispensable goal, therefore, is open crossings. By the same token, however, it is therefore essential to ensure that 'illegal weapons' do not enter Gaza."
"Fate of Gaza borders unclear"
Gulf Arab states plan to pledge $1.65 billion in aid over a period of up to five years to rebuild Gaza, and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Saudi Arabia had offered $1 billion. They said other Arab countries could join their plan.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in remarks prepared for delivery that urgent action was needed to turn the Gaza crisis "into an opportunity to move us closer to our shared goals."
Clinton plans to pledge $300 million for Gaza reconstruction and $600 million to support the Palestinian Authority's budget shortfalls, economic reforms and security and private sector projects run by the PA.
U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood said the money earmarked to Gaza will be channeled through the United Nations and other organizations, but not Hamas.
The European Commission said last week it planned to pledge 436 million euros ($552.6 million). The money would be also earmarked to Gaza and the reforms of the Palestinian Authority.
But it remains unclear whether Israel would open the border crossings to large quantities of supplies like cement and steel needed to rebuild.
"Money is very important but it is not going to solve the problem unless there is pressure from the international community on Israel to open all (border) crossings with Gaza," said Gasser Abdel-Razek, a spokesman for Oxfam International.
Israel increased its siege on Gaza's border crossings after Hamas took control in June 2007, and says it will "closely control" Gaza reconstruction project-by-project approval.
The Hamas movement said on Monday called on international donors in Egypt, to work out a mechanism to deliver aid directly to Palestinians in Gaza.
Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesperson, called on all sides to deal with legitimacy in Gaza if they are concerned about Palestinian interests.
"To bypass the legitimate Palestinian authorities in the Gaza Strip is a move in the wrong direction and it deliberately undermines the reconstruction," Barhoum said.
"Our people's blood can't be traded, under any circumstances, by politicized aid for reconstruction," said Barhoum.
Barhoum called on delegates at an international donor conference in Sharm Ash-Sheikh, Egypt, to work out a mechanism to deliver aid directly to Palestinians in Gaza.
"We think reconstruction is a moral and humanitarian process, but what occupation failed to achieve by force will not be allowed by any other means."
In a news conference in Gaza City, Barhoum hailed any reconstruction efforts by Arab and international countries on the account that such steps secure a decent standard of living for the victims of Israeli aggression in Gaza.
A devastating 22-day Israeli offensive in January killed 1300 Palestinians and wounded more than 5000 in Gaza.
"Aids to Abbas"
Before the start of the donors' conference, Abbas's West Bank-based government made a public call this week to thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip whose houses were damaged or destroyed in the 22-day Israeli assault.
Kamal Hassouni, a minister in the Palestinian Authority, said $348 million of the foreign aid would be used for housing, $119 million for transport services, $266 million for farming and $146 million for industry. About $1.45 billion will support the Palestinian Authority 2009 budget and the rest will fund other government expenses.
Hamas, Fatah and other Palestinian factions have been holding Egyptian-brokered reconciliation talks.
Speaking at the donors' conference, Abbas called for holding a presidential and parliament election in the Gaza Strip and West Bank in January 2010. Hamas says that according to Palestinian law, Abbas's term as president ended two months ago.
AgenciesGüncelleme Tarihi: 02 Mart 2009, 16:15