As reconstruction nears, Gaza fears donors won’t deliver on promises

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The Ministry of Public Works and Housing in the Gaza Strip announced Sept. 17 that the reconstruction process would kick off in early October.

The announcement came amid concerns that some donor countries would not deliver on their promises, as happened in previous wars.

According to the ministry, 1,500 housing units in Gaza were completely destroyed during the fighting in May and 800 were severely damaged. Another 56,000 were moderately or slightly damaged.

Naji Sarhan, the undersecretary of the Ministry of Public Works and Housing in Gaza, told Al-Monitor that Qatar will fund the rebuilding of nearly 1,000 of the completely destroyed homes.

He noted that the ministry has provided the names of the owners of these houses to the Qatari Committee for the Reconstruction of Gaza, which will pay the owners directly.

Qatar has pledged to pay $500 million for the reconstruction process,” he added.

The Gaza Municipality said in a Sept. 18 press release that the Qatari Committee for the Reconstruction of Gaza informed the municipality that it is postponing infrastructure reconstruction projects until the beginning of next year, warning of floods in lowland areas and shops during the upcoming winter season. 

The recent escalation in Gaza caused massive damage to its infrastructure, such as water treatment plants and water and power lines.

The head of the Gaza Municipality Media Department, Hosni Muhanna, told Al-Monitor, “Since the end of the recent escalation in Gaza, the municipality has warned of the environmental consequences of delaying the restoration of the Gaza infrastructure, which is why it has rushed to submit restoration projects to several parties.”

He said the municipality had received promises from Qatar, the Islamic Development Bank and USAID to provide financial grants for these projects. He warned of an environmental disaster that would negatively affect the lives of residents and create environmental and health problems as winter draws near.

“We fear the collapse of streets, roads, water lines and sewage networks,” he added.

Muhanna pointed out that the municipality has done everything possible to address maintenance needs on roads so that citizens can move around. He stressed that the reconstruction of housing must be coupled with the restoration of the infrastructure in order to prevent disasters during the winter. 

Sarhan said that Qatar did not abandon its plans to restore the infrastructure, but instead it seeks to carry out the reconstruction of homes and infrastructure separately.

He added, “We [at the Ministry of Housing] submit our reconstruction plan to the funding countries, but we cannot force them to abide by it, as each country has its own policy and interests. … At the end of the day, the decision is theirs.”

Sarhan added that Egypt is focusing on a road along the seashore in the northern Gaza Strip, to be followed by a project to build residential units.

In May, Egypt announced that it would provide $500 million for the reconstruction process.

Sarhan said the ministry has only received vague promises from several donor countries, including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and it is now waiting for these countries to announce the amount to be donated.

Sarhan noted that the cost of rebuilding the Gaza Strip after the latest fighting is estimated at $479 million, while the cost of rebuilding the damages of previous wars amount to $600 million.

He indicated that the countries that took part in the Cairo International Conference on the Reconstruction of Gaza, which was held after the end of the war in 2014, pledged to provide $5.4 billion to the Palestinians, but only $800 million was received, as hundreds of housing units and towers that were bombed in the 2014 war remain destroyed.

He said that the countries that did not fulfill their pledges back include Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Germany, the countries that pledged the largest share of donations.

Sarhan expressed the ministry’s concerns that the Gaza reconstruction would be hindered by the political division and differences between Hamas, which controls Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority,​which is not focused on reconstruction efforts.

“The donor countries must abide by their promises in order for the state of calm to remain in Gaza,” he added.

Hussam al-Dajni, a professor of political science at Al-Ummah University in Gaza, told Al-Monitor that Palestinian concerns over the failure of the reconstruction process in Gaza are due to the lack of commitment of donor countries to provide the funds they promised at the 2014 Cairo conference.

He said the current Israeli government is also impeding the process and seeking to tighten the siege, adding that the Gaza Strip is waiting to see whether the international community will pressure Israel to allow the reconstruction process to begin, as a crisis in Gaza will directly affect Israel.

Dajni believes that the donor countries’ argument that they have concerns about distributing money amid the conflict is illogical. He called on these countries to force Israel to implement international resolutions, while refraining from attacking the Palestinians.

“How can a long-term truce be implemented when the Israeli occupation oppresses the Palestinians everywhere and rejects the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 border?” he asked.

Dajni attributed Qatar’s postponement of the infrastructure reconstruction project to political, not economic, reasons. He said that Qatar may fear being classified as a supporter of terrorism if it acts without prior US approval.



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