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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 April 2019

Two years on from devastating war, Gaza reconstruction is lacking, say NGOs

The July-August 2014 war killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 73 Israelis, mostly soldiers. It also destroyed or damaged thousands of homes in Gaza.
Palestinian men work on the remains of a building destroyed during Israel's 2014 war on Gaza on April 30, 2016, in Gaza City. Mahmud Hams/AFP Photo
Palestinian men work on the remains of a building destroyed during Israel's 2014 war on Gaza on April 30, 2016, in Gaza City. Mahmud Hams/AFP Photo

GAZA CITY // Two years after Israel’s devastating war on Gaza, rights groups vented frustration on Thursday over the slow pace of reconstruction in the Palestinian territory and lack of war crimes prosecutions.

A coalition of leading NGOs urged Israel to lift its blockade of the impoverished Gaza Strip, while Amnesty International said it was “indefensible” that no criminal cases had been brought for alleged war crimes.

The July-August 2014 war killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 73 Israelis, mostly soldiers. It also destroyed or damaged thousands of homes in Gaza.

Reconstruction has been painfully slow, with the United Nations taking over a year to rebuild its first destroyed home.

Israel has maintained a blockade on the territory, limiting the entry of many goods essential for construction – ostensibly, Israeli officials say, for fear they could fall into the hands of Hamas and be used for a military build-up.

Aida – an umbrella body for major international NGOs working in Israel and the Palestinian territories – said in a report ahead of Friday’s anniversary of the war’s outbreak that Israel’s decade-long blockade was “severely impeding reconstruction and recovery” in Gaza.

“Unless it is lifted, Palestinians living in Gaza will be unable to move on with their lives and live in freedom, dignity and safety,” said Chris Eijkemans, country director at British charity Oxfam, a member of Aida.

The body called on “world leaders to live up to their commitments and press for an immediate end to the blockade”.

In a separate report, Amnesty International said that only three Israeli soldiers have been charged over the war, all for minor offences.

“The fact that no one has been held to account for war crimes that were evidently committed by both sides in the conflict is absolutely indefensible,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa head.

“Two years have passed and it’s high time the wheels of justice started turning.”

In Gaza, although new roads have been constructed, many areas remain desolated and the economy has ground to a standstill.

More than 120,000 homes were at least partly damaged, while around 20,000 were left totally uninhabitable in the war, according to the UN.

The Mediterranean enclave’s unemployment rate of 45 per cent is one of the highest in the world, while child labour has doubled over the past five years, according to Palestinian estimates.

Sohad Al Masry, a 40-year-old housewife, lost her home in the war, in which her cousin was killed.

“I don’t like to remember but I am sad,” she said. “They have not rebuilt the destroyed houses, the siege and closure [continue], and there is unemployment.”

Fears of another war, which would be the fourth in Israel and the Palestinian territories since 2008, have grown in recent months after Israeli forces uncovered two Hamas tunnels allegedly reaching across the Gaza-Israel border.

After a brief flare-up in May, leaders on both sides have talked of being ready for another conflict.

“I am very worried a fourth war is coming. The occupation is threatening war on Hamas’s tunnels,” said Mohammed Abu Daqa, 26, who works in a government school.

He called on Hamas to reconcile with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement, which runs the West Bank, to whip up global support for lifting the siege of Gaza.

“But unfortunately Hamas and Fatah are not ready for a reconciliation,” he said.

* Agence France-Presse

Updated: July 7, 2016 04:00 AM

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