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Gaza reconstruction to cost billions

2009-01-20 04:17:54

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This is a real shame and Israel should not get away with targetting civilians and making life miserable for millions of people.  It would seem the world allows crimes by some, and makes the victims of the crimes into the criminals.

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Gaza reconstruction to cost billions

Last Updated: Tuesday, January 20, 2009 | 6:41 AM ET Comments3Recommend1

Rebuilding the heavily damaged Gaza Strip after a three-week offensive by Israel could cost billions of dollars and may take years.

Initial estimates by independent surveyors found that the Hamas-run territory lost about $2 billion in assets.

The damage includes 4,100 homes, about 1,500 factories and workshops, 20 mosques, 31 security compounds and 10 water or sewage lines.

Surrounded by rubble, Gazans face a monumental cleanup effort, and many were left homeless after tank shells rendered buildings uninhabitable.

Officials hope to restore water and electricity networks over the next few weeks, but that would depend on Israel allowing spare parts to be brought into the coastal territory.

Even during the shaky six-month ceasefire preceding the war, Israel barely eased restrictions on the flow of goods into Gaza, for fear supplies would end up strengthening Hamas.

Israel plans to keep close control over what is allowed into the Palestinian territory and is waiting for international aid groups to assess damage before considering requests.

"We are not looking to give Hamas a prize," said Peter Lerner, an official in the Israeli military. "There are limits, and the priority is food supplies."

Damage so far is estimated to be around $1.9 billion US, according to separate surveys by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics and a Palestinian economic development council that serves as a liaison between the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's government and donor countries. Both are based in the West Bank.

Mohammed Shtayyeh, head of the economic council, estimates rebuilding could take as long as three to five years even under ideal conditions, including Israel and Egypt lifting their blockades and Hamas and Abbas settling their differences.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah offered $1 billion to help rebuild the Gaza Strip. The international community has also vowed to help.

United Nations humanitarian chief John Holmes told reporters at UN headquarters on Monday that the agency's staff are trying "to find out as much as they can about how great the damage is and how great the needs are."

He estimated that the cost will be massive.

"I think on the purely humanitarian and early recovery side … it will be hundreds of million of dollars and no doubt the overall reconstruction costs will be numbered in billions of dollars, but I wouldn't want to put a figure on it beyond that," he said.

Hamas civil servants travelled around the territory, taking down names of Gazans who suffered losses.

"Despite the size of the destruction and despite the war, we are still functioning," said Ehab Ghussein, a spokesman for Hamas's Interior Ministry.



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