World Bulletin/News Desk
Reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, which suffered a devastating Israeli military onslaught in July and August, could take up to three years, an official with the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters at the agency's office in Gaza, UNRWA Director of Gaza Operations Robert Turner said the reconstruction process would need time, as it would entail the removal of debris and the design of new homes before building permits could even be issued.
Turner also asserted that his agency would cover monthly rental costs to help Palestinian families whose homes were destroyed in the recent Israeli offensive find temporary shelter until their homes are rebuilt.
UNRWA will also provide financial assistance to families whose homes sustained partial damage, Turner said.
Yet, he added, the agency would face challenges meeting these costs in the upcoming year due to a $55-million deficit in the agency's budget.
In a Tuesday phone call, Palestinian and Qatari heads of state discussed efforts to rebuild the war-battered Gaza Strip.
Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani received a phone call from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, during which the two discussed the reconstruction of Gaza in the wake of Israel's devastating offensive against the blockaded enclave, the official Palestinian WAFA news agency reported.
Discussions also tackled the need to expedite the reconstruction process, along with means of operating Gaza's sole power plant using funds pledged by Qatar at a recent donor conference in Cairo, the news agency added.
The talk also touched on bilateral relations and means of bolstering Palestinian-Qatari cooperation.
Qatar pledged $1 billion at the donor conference, which succeeded in raising a total of $5.4 billion, half of which was earmarked for the reconstruction of Gaza.
During Israel's recent 51-day onslaught, 15,671 housing units across the coastal enclave were damaged, including 2,276 that were totally destroyed, according to official Palestinian figures.
More than 2,160 Gazans, meanwhile, mostly civilians, were killed – and some 11,000 injured – during seven weeks of unrelenting Israeli attacks through July and August.
The Israeli offensive finally ended on August 26 with the announcement of an indefinite cease-fire agreement.
U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process Robert Serry announced last September that the U.N. had brokered a deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority permitting the entry of building materials into Gaza.
At an October 12 donor conference in Cairo, representatives from 50 countries pledged some $5.4 billion to the Palestinians, half of which was allocated for reconstruction of the devastated Gaza Strip.
Serry's plan includes imposing strict oversight on the use of building materials to ensure they are not used for purposes other than construction, due to Israeli fears that supplies would be used by Hamas to build tunnels or fortifications.
According to Israeli and Western diplomatic sources, the plan also calls for deploying hundreds of international observers to monitor the construction process.Last Mod: 04 Kasım 2014, 17:52