Israeli Blockade, Palestinian Strife Hinder Gaza Rebuilding

UN official: Money alone will not be enough to rebuild the Gaza Strip in the wake of Operation Cast Lead.

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Despite the generous donations expected to be promised at next month's Sharm el-Sheikh summit, money alone will not be enough to rebuild the Gaza Strip in the wake of Operation Cast Lead, stated the head of the United Nations Development Program in Gaza.

Khaled Abdel Shafi said three basic conditions must be met for reconstruction to take place: The border crossings must be opened to allow in raw materials and construction needs; there must be a long-term cease-fire with Israel; and the Palestinian leaderships in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank must reconcile.

Money earmarked

Both the UNDP and the UN Relief and Works Agency have significant amounts of money earmarked for various construction projects in Gaza, but they cannot advance because Israel is blocking raw materials, including construction materials, from entering the Strip. The Sharm el-Sheikh donations are expected to meet a similar fate.

Meanwhile, several Arab states that have promised generous sums for reconstruction have already warned that they will provide the money only if the rival Fatah and Hamas leaderships reconcile.

Another round of talks between Fatah and Hamas is slated to begin in Cairo on Wednesday, but independent Palestinian figures are pessimistic about their chances for success. They believe the donors conference could actually make the situation worse, due to the consistent snubbing of Hamas.

The Palestinian Authority government in Ramallah has drafted a reconstruction program for Gaza, based on UN damage assessments, that it will present at Sharm el-Sheikh.