UN Wants International Monitors to Oversee Reconstruction Work in Gaza

Mideast envoy Robert Serry is liaising with PA and Israel to bring between 250 and 500 UN monitors into the Strip to supervise rebuilding work, safeguard materials. Hamas has yet to comment on proposal.

AFP

The United Nations’ top Mideast envoy, Robert Serry, wants to station hundreds of international monitors in the Gaza Strip, Haaretz has learned from European diplomats and senior Israeli officials.

Senior European diplomats who were briefed on Serry’s plan said he wants to bring between 250 and 500 monitors to the Strip.

A senior Israeli official said that some 50 UN monitors are already in Ramallah and ready to go to Gaza to supervise the process of rehabilitating the Gaza Strip following Operation Protective Edge. The official said Serry wants to bring in additional monitors as the process progresses and expands.

According to Serry’s plan, the monitors would be stationed at major construction zones, such as neighborhoods or large public buildings being restored. They would also be at storage sites for construction materials like cement and concrete, and dual-use materials such as metal pipes or iron rods. Monitors would also be placed at sites where bulldozers and other heavy mechanical equipment is parked.

The European diplomats and senior Israeli officials said the function of the international monitors would be to ensure that construction materials and heavy mechanical equipment, which could be used for other purposes, would be used solely to rebuild Gaza and wouldn’t reach Hamas for the digging of tunnels or building bunkers. The monitors would visit a sampling of large construction projects and make sure the relevant materials reached them.

A senior Israeli official said that Jerusalem wanted UN monitors in Gaza so there would be a relatively reliable entity to supervise and report from the Strip.

Hamas’ position on the matter is still not clear. On the one hand, it doesn’t want elements in the Strip that could restrict its activities. On the other, the organization understands that without the monitors, Israel will not allow the rebuilding of Gaza. The issue is expected to come up in the Egyptian-brokered negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian factions, set to be renewed this week in Cairo.

The stationing of the international monitors is one of the understandings Serry reached last week with Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. The understandings include Israeli willingness to allow massive amounts of building materials to enter the Gaza Strip in exchange for UN monitoring of the materials.

According to the understandings between Israel, the UN and the Palestinians, all the reconstruction plans and funds from donor countries will be channeled through the reconciliation government in Ramallah. A tripartite steering committee, consisting of Israelis, Palestinians and UN representatives, will oversee the restoration process.

A senior Israeli official said the system would also include the installation of security cameras at several sites in the Strip – at Palestinian building supply and storage facilities, and places where bulldozers and other heavy mechanical equipment are parked – to follow goings-on at these sites in real time.

In addition, supplies will be drawn from Palestinian suppliers against vouchers, so as to enable verification that each project receives only the building materials it needs. A senior Israeli official noted that if irregularities are discovered, responsibility would rest with the Palestinian supplier, which could deter the transfer of building supplies to Hamas.

In addition to rebuilding destroyed neighborhoods or buildings that were completely demolished, buildings less severely damaged in the fighting will also be renovated. The monitoring of this work will not be as tight. It will be carried out by government officials who worked for the Palestinian Authority before Hamas’ Gaza takeover in 2007. In recent years these officials have received unemployment payments from the PA.