US pledges $212m in aid to rebuild Gaza; they desperately need us, says Kerry

An international donor conference to rebuild war-torn Gaza was held in Cairo on Sunday where envoys from dozens of countries met to pledge aid fund worth billions for the Herculean task of reconstruction of a city battered by 50 days of violence in July and August.

Updated: Oct 12, 2014, 16:06 PM IST
US pledges $212m in aid to rebuild Gaza; they desperately need us, says Kerry

Cairo: US Secretary John Kerry pledged 212 million US Dollars in aid to rebuild war-battered Gaza at international donor conference in Cairo on Sunday, saying that the Palestinians desperately needed help.

"The people of Gaza need our help desperately. Not tomorrow, not next week, they need it now," said Kerry at the conference.

Kerry also stressed on the need to seal a lasting peace deal between Israel and Palestinians.

It can be noted that the US pledged almost double the amount it had earlier promised (just over 1 billion dollars) in aid for Gaza rebuilding.

“Kerry joins EU, UN, Arab League, and other foreign leaders in support of a major humanitarian assistance and reconstruction effort to benefit Palestinians living in Gaza. This will build on the commitment of $118 million from the United States in humanitarian assistance to Gaza announced in September,” said an earlier statement by the US State Department.

Kerry joined 30 counterparts from dozens of other donor nations at the international conference on Gaza in Cairo, which was opened by the remarks of Egyptian leader Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who said that a "permanent calm" between Hamas and Israel was pivotal for  the reconstruction of Gaza. He added that the Palestinian Authority must be able to exercise "full authority", reported the Haaretz.

Warning against what is called as "donor fatigue", UN Chief Ban Ki-moon said that reconstruction must be based on strong political foundation and that the cycle of destruction and aid funding should not be a 'ritual'.

Sisi also called on Israel to end the conflict and initiate peace efforts based on a 2002 Arab initiative.  

"I call on the Israeli people and the government: now is the time to end the conflict... so that prosperity prevails, so that we all can have peace and security," said Sisi.

Reminiscing how the latest war had caused indescribable tragedies,  Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on the international community to support their demand of ending Israeli occupation and take the onus of preventing "the aggression, destruction, displacement and suffering of Palestinian people".

 "The most recent Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, which resulted in vast destruction and uncountable catastrophes is unbearable and cannot pass without consequence...Entire neighborhoods have been reduced to rubble and 90 families are no longer listed in the civil register," Abbas said.

Palestinians, in their reconstruction plan, have put forward a request for $4 billion in aid pledges to rebuild Gaza. However, according to a Reuters report, US officials doubt if the donor nations would pledge a total amount of 4 billion dollars for Gaza. 

Just five years ago, the same international donor communities had met in Egypt and pledged billions to reconstruct Gaza following a previous round of hostilities.

Also, calling for lifting of Israeli blockade on Gaza, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees had urged people all over the world to call on the leaders participating in the donor conference to facilitate ending Israeli occupation for a lasting solution.

“Please join your voice to the millions calling to the international donor meeting in Cairo for #Freedom4Gaza. With just one click you can tell world leaders that precious aid money cannot be squandered in the now familiar cycle of reconstruction and destruction. There is no lasting solution without lifting the blockade,” said a UNRWA statement.

Gazans have been living under Israeli blockade for seven years now.

The UN agency reasoned that the process of reconstruction cannot take place under the shadow of fear of destruction and that aid was not a “substitute for human rights”.

The UNRWA added that the denial of freedom can never lead to lasting peace.

“We say with one voice - Yes to reconstruction, yes to lifting the blockade and yes to #Freedom4Gaza,” said a UNRWA statement. 

Gaza was devastated by 50-days of war between Hamas and Israel in July and August, that was triggered by the murder of three Israeli teens and revenge killing of a Palestinian.

Israel started Operation Protective Edge on July 8 and over 2000 Palestinian people lost their lives, according to Gazan health ministry.

Also, over a lakh were displaced and a major chunk of reconstruction aid fund is set to be invested in housing and rehabilitating the homeless Gazans.