Donors pledge $5.4bn to rebuild Gaza at Cairo summit

Gulf donors step up to contribute to Gaza's cause

International donors have pledged more than $5bn to fund Gaza’s reconstruction during a conference in Cairo, with Qatar alone committing $1bn to the cause.

The total, which includes $212m from the US and $200m each from Kuwait and the UAE, exceeded the $4bn appealed for by the Palestinian Authority to rebuild Gaza.

The territory was badly damaged during a conflict with neighbouring Israel in July and August, in which more than 2,100 Palestinians died, most of them civilians. At least 100,000 Palestinians lost their homes in the seven-week war, and much of Gaza’s vital infrastructure was destroyed by Israeli air strikes. More than 65 Israeli soldiers were killed in the fighting, and six civilians in Israel.

Envoys from dozens of countries have attended the Cairo reconstruction meeting, which is hosted by Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. Norway’s Foreign Minister Borge Brende said the conference had secured about $5.4bn in aid for Gaza, half of which would be used for rebuilding. US Secretary of State John Kerry said reconstruction must go hand-in-hand with renewed peace talks, saying anything less than a lasting deal between Israel and Palestine would be a “band-aid fix”.

“Out of this conference must come not just money but a renewed commitment from everybody to work for peace that meets the aspirations of all, for Israelis, for Palestinians, for all people of this region,” Kerry told the meeting. “And I promise you the full commitment of president Obama, myself and the United States to try to do that.”

The British ambassador to Egypt, John Casson, was quoted by Reuters as saying Britain would provide $32m for reconstruction.

The two sides have fought three wars in six years. The last round of US-brokered peace talks, presided over by Kerry, floundered in April. A spokesperson for the UN agency for Palestinian Refugees, UNRWA, told Philanthropy Age last week that Gaza was in the grip of a humanitarian crisis.

Some 50,000 Gazans are living in shelters, and close to half a million are displaced, according to Christopher Gunness, spokesperson and director of Advocacy and Strategic Communications at the UNRWA.

The agency requires $680m to build 1,400 homes in Gaza in two years to accommodate the homeless, but fears the Israeli-imposted land, air and sea blockade will hamper reconstruction efforts.

“The blockade must be lifted and fundamental freedoms restored to Gaza. Without that, I fear a return to the shockingly familiar pattern of blockade, rockets and massive destruction,” said Gunness.