Thursday, July 9, 2015
ISRAEL’S ROLE IN RECONSTRUCTION IN THE GAZA STRIP
· - Israel agreed to the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism with the UN and Palestinian Authority (PA) in September 2014 and has been implementing it despite the PA not establishing its rule in the Gaza Strip.
· - The Hamas authorities are openly reconstructing their military capabilities in the Gaza Strip, including attack tunnels, diverting cement needed for civilian reconstruction.
· - Donor shortfalls and infighting between the PA and Hamas are holding up reconstruction.
· - Middle East Minister Tobias Ellwood said in June: “We welcome the recent steps that Israel has taken in Gaza, increasing exports, electricity and water. This is the right approach and we hope it will be possible for Israel to go much further.”
· - In September 2014 Israel agreed the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) with the UN and the PA to import construction materials, including dual use materials, into the Gaza Strip and assure they were not diverted for Hamas’s military purposes. An electronic database, run by the PA’s Ministry of Civil Affairs, controls and matches the supply and demand for construction goods.
· - In recent months between 1000 and 1500 trucks have entered Gaza each week from Israel, including hundreds of trucks of construction materials, despite the PA not being present to check directly the use of the materials, due to disagreements between the PA and Hamas. Israel has been working to expand the capacity of the crossings.
· At a meeting in May, international donors, “took note of Israeli efforts to increase the volume of materials into Gaza,” and “welcomed the readiness expressed [by Israel] for further increasing the volumes even if this involves raised security risks.”
· - According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: “As of 17 June, 95,143 individuals requiring materials for shelter repairs had been cleared to purchase materials under the GRM. Of these, over 90 per cent have so far procured full or partial quantities of their allocated construction material.” Totally destroyed homes have not yet been rebuilt, but in June the PA approved the entry of material for 16,000 new homes and initial works are expected in the second half of 2015. According to an April 2014 UN report repairs had been completed on 160 government schools, 74 kindergartens and 25 Ministry of Health clinics.
· - In addition to UN projects, Israel is also facilitating Qatari-funded infrastructure projects, with Israel allowing Qatari officials to enter Gaza from Israel when Egypt refused.
· - Israel has also significantly increased the numbers of Gazans entering Israel, with 12,600 entering on average each month in 2015. Israel has also allowed some exports to the West Bank and Israel.
· - By contrast, Egypt has kept the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip closed most of the time following terror attacks carried out by ISIL affiliates against Egyptian targets in the Sinai on 24 October 2014. Egypt accuses Hamas of aiding armed groups in the Sinai.
· - Whilst Israeli and Egyptian restrictions on access to the Hamas-run Gaza Strip pose constraints, Palestinian infighting, donor shortfalls, and shortage of materials are major factors holding back construction.
· - Arab League Sec. General Nabil Elaraby told Al-Hayat in February, “internal differences and the absence of cooperation between the PA and Hamas are behind the delay in reconstructing the Gaza Strip.”
· - UN official Jeffrey Feltman briefed the Security Council in March: “Despite the GRM’s continued expansion, four months after the Cairo conference donors have yet to fulfil the vast majority of their pledges. This is frankly unacceptable.”
· - A May 2015 Quartet report stated: “As long as the deadlock continues and the PA is not on the ground in Gaza, there will not be any significant improvement in the situation. An effective and tangible PA presence in Gaza is also a prerequisite for many of the donors who pledged funds.”
· - Hamas is openly rebuilding its network of attack tunnels, and Israeli security officials accuse them of diverting cement imported for civilian reconstruction for this purpose.