Posts Tagged ‘rebuilding of Gaza’

Jimmy Carter: Gaza must be rebuilt now

December 19, 2009
We can wait no longer to restart the peace process. The human suffering demands urgent relief

Jimmy Carter, The Guardian/UK, Dec 19, 2009

It is  generally recognised that the Middle East peace process is in the doldrums, almost moribund. Israeli settlement expansion within Palestine continues, and PLO leaders refuse to join in renewed peace talks without a settlement freeze, knowing that no Arab or Islamic nation will accept any comprehensive agreement while Israel retains control of East Jerusalem.

US objections have impeded Egyptian efforts to resolve differences between Hamas and Fatah that could lead to 2010 elections. With this stalemate, PLO leaders have decided that President Mahmoud Abbas will continue in power until elections can be held – a decision condemned by many Palestinians.

Even though Syria and Israel under the Olmert government had almost reached an agreement with Turkey’s help, the current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, rejects Turkey as a mediator on the Golan Heights. No apparent alternative is in the offing.

The UN general assembly approved a report issued by its human rights council that called on Israel and the Palestinians to investigate charges of war crimes during the recent Gaza war, but positive responses seem unlikely.

In summary: UN resolutions, Geneva conventions, previous agreements between Israelis and Palestinians, the Arab peace initiative, and official policies of the US and other nations are all being ignored. In the meantime, the demolition of Arab houses, expansion of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and Palestinian recalcitrance threaten any real prospect for peace.

Of more immediate concern, those under siege in Gaza face another winter of intense personal suffering. I visited Gaza after the devastating January war and observed homeless people huddling in makeshift tents, under plastic sheets, or in caves dug into the debris of their former homes. Despite offers by Palestinian leaders and international agencies to guarantee no use of imported materials for even defensive military purposes, cement, lumber, and panes of glass are not being permitted to pass entry points into Gaza. The US and other nations have accepted this abhorrent situation without forceful corrective action.

I have discussed ways to assist the citizens of Gaza with a number of Arab and European leaders and their common response is that the Israeli blockade makes any assistance impossible. Donors point out that they have provided enormous aid funds to build schools, hospitals and factories, only to see them destroyed in a few hours by precision bombs and missiles. Without international guarantees, why risk similar losses in the future?

It is time to face the fact that, for the past 30 years, no one nation has been able or willing to break the impasse and induce the disputing parties to comply with international law. We cannot wait any longer. Israel has long argued that it cannot negotiate with terrorists, yet has had an entire year without terrorism and still could not negotiate. President Obama has promised active involvement of the US government, but no formal peace talks have begun and no comprehensive framework for peace has been proposed. Individually and collectively, the world powers must act.

One recent glimmer of life has been the 8 December decision of EU foreign ministers to restate the long-standing basic requirements for peace commonly accepted within the international community, including that Israel’s pre-1967 boundaries will prevail unless modified by a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians. A week later the new EU foreign policy chief, Baroness Catherine Ashton, reiterated this statement in even stronger terms and called for the international Quartet to be “reinvigorated”. This is a promising prospect.

President Obama was right to insist on a two-state solution and a complete settlement freeze as the basis for negotiations. Since Israel has rejected the freeze and the Palestinians won’t negotiate without it, a logical step is for all Quartet members (the US, EU, Russia and UN) to support the Obama proposal by declaring any further expansion of settlements illegal and refusing to veto UN security council decisions to condemn such settlements. This might restrain Israel and also bring Palestinians to the negotiating table.

At the same time, the Quartet should join with Turkey and invite Syria and Israel to negotiate a solution to the Golan Heights dispute.

Without ascribing blame to any of the disputing parties, the Quartet also should begin rebuilding Gaza by organising relief efforts under the supervision of an active special envoy, overseeing a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, and mediating an opening of the crossings. The cries of homeless and freezing people demand immediate relief.

This is a time for bold action, and the season for forgiveness, reconciliation and peace.

Gazans count cost of war

January 20, 2009
Al Jazeera,  January 20, 2009

Palestinians say 25,000 buildings were damaged
or destroyed in Israel’s assault on Gaza [EPA]

Palestinians returning to their neighbourhoods have begun to unearth the true scale of destruction left by Israel’s 22-day offensive on the Gaza Strip.

Fragile ceasefires – declared separately by Israel and Palestinian fighters – continued to hold on Tuesday, as Israeli troops pulled back from some key points in Gaza towards the border.

Israeli army radio quoted unnamed military officials as saying that troops would pull out of Gaza by the time Barack Obama, the US president-elect, takes office on Tuesday.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, is also set to survey the destruction in a trip to Gaza during the day.

Estimates for the rebuilding of Gaza’s devastated infrastructure have been put at billions of dollars.

Dire situation

In video
Unearthing Gaza’s destruction
Israel’s scorched earth tactics

John Holmes, the UN humanitarian chief, says hundreds of millions of dollars in emergency aid supplies will be needed for the people of Gaza.

Although 100,000 people had running water restored in their homes as of Sunday, 400,000 were still without it, Holmes said.

Electricity in Gaza is available for less than half the day and about 100,000 people have been displaced by the war.

Despite the three-week Israeli onslaught that killed more than 1,300 Palestinians and destroyed thousands of buildings, Hamas and other Palestinian factions claimed victory in the fighting.

Israel had said the aim of its operations in Gaza was to cripple Hamas’s ability to launch rockets into the south of the country.

But a masked man calling himself Abu Obeida and claiming to be a spokesman for Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing, said the group’s rocket-launching capacity had not been diminished, and threatened to renew fighting if Israeli forces did not withdraw.

“They [Israel] say they weakened Hamas. We assure you that what we have lost in this war is nothing compared to what we [still] have,” he said in a televised news conference on Monday.

Abu Obeida vowed that Hamas would replenish its arsenal of rockets and other weapons, in defiance of any Israeli or international efforts to cut off smuggling routes.

“Do whatever you want, bringing in and manufacturing the holy weapons is our mission, and we know how to acquire weapons,” he said.

Disease fears

GAZA TOLL

At least 1,300 people killed, including more than 400 children and more than 100 women

At least 5,300 Palestinians injured, including nearly 1,900 children and 800 women

At least 100,000 people forced from their homes

At least 13 Israelis killed, including three civilians

Meanwhile, scores of bodies have been discovered in the rubble of destroyed buildings since the fighting was halted.

Abed Sharafi, an ambulance driver, said on Monday that he had helped pull out the bodies of 15 children and women from under their house.

“They were so badly decomposed that we couldn’t distinguish boys from girls. Some had been there for 15 days,” he said.

Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from Gaza City, said the World Health Organisation was warning of an outbreak of disease with bodies now several weeks old and sewage flowing over many areas because of the destruction to infrastructure.

The deposed Hamas-led government in Gaza estimates that more than 5,000 buildings were completely destroyed and 20,000 damaged or partially destroyed in the fighting.


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