International donors, at a conference in Cairo on Sunday, pledged a sum of $5.4 billion toward reconstruction work in the Gaza Strip. The sum exceeds the $4 billion amount requested by the Palestinian Authority, or PA, according to media reports.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende, who co-chaired the conference with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, reportedly said that, of the $5.4 billion pledged by donor nations, $2.7 billion would be “dedicated” to the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. He, however, did not say how the rest of the funds would be spent.
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“This is a major breakthrough, a very important signal of solidarity to the Palestinian people in general and not at least to the people that are suffering so badly in Gaza,” Brende said, according to a BBC report.
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Envoys from nearly 30 countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey, as well as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, attended the conference.
Qatar committed $1billion in aid, making it the single largest donor. The U.S. announced $212 million in aid while the European Union pledged a total of $570 million, according to media reports.
“We are here to stand with the people of Gaza who have endured a terrible summer of suffering,” Ban reportedly said at the conference, referring to the recently concluded war in the Gaza Strip, which left over 2,100 people dead and displaced over a third of the region’s 1.8 million population.
He also expressed concern that such conferences were becoming “a ritual” after successive cycles of “building and destroying” in Gaza. The Palestinian enclave has endured three wars in the last six years that have left entire neighborhoods destroyed and forced millions to live in crowded refugee camps. In the latest war, Israel lost 72 people, including six civilians.
“I do not want my successors or yours to make conferences such as this a ritual: building and destroying — and then expecting the international community to foot the bill,” Ban reportedly said, adding that a similar conference was held in the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh in 2009 in the aftermath of the 2008 war in Gaza. “We pledged our support. We expressed our commitment. We resolved to rebuild. And yet here we are again.”
“Enough is enough,” he reportedly said, adding that he will travel to the Gaza Strip on Tuesday to visit sites destroyed during the war and help advance reconstruction work.
The donor conference in Cairo comes less than a week after Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah held their first joint cabinet meeting in Gaza since Hamas took control of the coastal strip in 2007.
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