Haaretz , Israel, Friday, May 1, 2009
None of a $4.5 billion package of reconstruction aid recently pledged for the Gaza Strip has got through because of border restrictions, a top United Nations official said on Thursday.
International donors pledged the aid money in March to help the Palestinian economy and rebuild Gaza after a three-week Israeli military offensive against the coastal strip’s Hamas rulers.
But John Ging, head of the UN Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, said Gaza had still not benefited from any of the aid because of restrictions on the flow of goods into the territory.
“There is no prospect of recovery or reconstruction until we can get access for construction materials,” Ging said.
“Billions of dollars were pledged for recovery and reconstruction and yet none of that can actually connect with those whose lives were destroyed,” he told a news briefing during a trip to European Union headquarters in Brussels.
Israel has said it had opened Gaza’s border to larger amounts of food and medicine since the December-January offensive against Hamas militants who control the Palestinian territory and were firing rockets into Israeli towns.
The war destroyed some 5,000 homes and, according to figures from a Palestinian rights group, killed over 1,400 people. Israel has challenged this figure, stating that a total of 1,166 Palestinians were killed in the operation, the majority of whom were Hamas militants.
Since Hamas ousted Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah from Gaza in a bloody 2007 coup, Israel has tightened its blockade of the 45-km strip in an effort to weaken Hamas’s hold on power.
Egypt has also restricted crossings at its border with Gaza.
Ging said the international community should find a solution to the border crossings issue and provide more access to goods and services for the inhabitants of Gaza.
“Today the money is out there in pledges and the people of Gaza continue to subsist in the rubble of their former lives and the attention of the world has sadly moved on, which compounds the despair that people feel,” he said.
Robert Serry, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said on a visit to Gaza on Thursday the situation was alarming and warned that issues such as Palestinian reconciliation and secure borders had to be addressed.
“In the absence of real progress on issues like Palestinian reconciliation, open crossings, secure borders and a prisoners- exchange, the potential for renewed violence is ever-present,” Serry said in a statement.