Rebuilding Gaza could cost $4 billion; reconstruction conference kicks off

Story highlights

  • U.N. secretary-general: "The cycle of building and destroying must end"
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announces additional contribution of $212 million
  • The Palestinian Authority says rebuilding Gaza after this year's conflict will cost $4 billion
  • Egypt and Norway are hosting a conference in Cairo to help raise the funds needed
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made an urgent plea as a donor conference to rebuild Gaza kicked off Sunday morning in Cairo.
"The cycle of building and destroying must end," Ban said in his opening remarks. "Donors may be fatigued, but the people of Gaza are bruised and bloody. Enough is enough."
He said he hoped this would be the last Gaza reconstruction conference.
"It is time to chart a course to a just and final peace between Israelis and Palestinians -- one that addresses all the outstanding issues," he said.
The U.N. chief plans to visit Gaza on Tuesday to listen directly to its people and survey the situation. He will also visit Israel.
Rebuilding Gaza after this year's conflict with Israel will cost $4 billion, says the Palestinian Authority, which is presenting a reconstruction plan Sunday.
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The governments of Egypt and Norway are hosting the Cairo conference to help raise the funds needed, according to Egypt's Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Deputy Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa will be joined by some of the world's most powerful diplomats, including the foreign ministers of Japan, France and Italy.
They will speak about the challenges of rebuilding and how to approach the international response.
Multiple global aid organizations are also participating.
Officials announce aid to Gaza
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced an additional $212 million in aid to rebuild Gaza, shortly after he arrived in Cairo early Sunday.
The money doubles the amount already pledged, bringing the total U.S. contribution to $414 million.
Kerry said that raising funds should not be the only goal of the conference.
"I say clearly and with deep conviction here today, the United States remains fully and totally committed to returning to negotiations not just for the sake of it, but because the goal of this conference and the future of the region demand it," he said.
He called for long-term investments in the Palestinian economy to create a vibrant private sector.
Qatar announced a $1 billion dollar donation Sunday.
"Well, I think it won't simply be Qatar pledging money; all the other Arab countries will pledge money as well," former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a Middle East Quartet representative, told CNN's Becky Anderson. He said the money would go through the right channels.
"If the Palestinian Authority as envisaged are in charge of that process of reconstruction, this money will go through them, will go through a proper treasury account properly administered," Blair said. "So we are taking a lot of painstaking efforts to make sure the money goes for the purpose for which it was intended and goes to benefit the people in Gaza."
The Quartet is an informal diplomatic group made up of officials from the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia. It aims to promote Middle East peace and Palestinian development.
Israeli response
Israel was not invited to the conference, but that does not mean that it wants to prevent the reconstruction of Gaza, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview with Israel Radio on Sunday
Lieberman said that it was important that funds raised in Cairo not be used to produce weapons or build tunnels in Gaza.
He added that it was up to Palestinians to prevent another operation in Gaza.
"We are not looking for adventures, but if the rocket is renewed, Israel has a right to defend itself," he said.
Operation Protective Edge
Israel launched Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in July, saying the military operation was aimed at stopping Hamas rocket attacks and destroying a network of tunnels that extended under the border with Israel.
More than 2,130 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed in Gaza during the 50 days of fighting that followed. The United Nations estimates that more than 70% were civilians, but Israel reports a higher number of militants among the dead.
Many homes, schools and other buildings in Gaza were destroyed or damaged before a ceasefire was reached in late August.
The United Nations estimates that 60,000 Gazans were still living in shelters in late September.