GAZA CITY, January 19 (JMCC) - Prime minister of the Hamas
-led government in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh
laid on Tuesday the cornerstone for a project to reconstruct homes destroyed in Israel's war on Gaza
two years ago.
Speaking to the press and guests, Haniyeh said the reconstruction effort would be carried out in stages, with the first effort to start within days to rebuild some 1,000 homes that were flattened in the war before moving on to partially-destroyed structures.
Late in 2008, the Israeli army launched “Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, killing 1,500 Palestinians and destroying thousands of buildings, including 3,500 homes that were completely destroyed.
Haniyeh said that his government had acquired the money needed for the massive rebuilding campaign, but did not say where the funding had come from.
He criticized the international community for pledging money for Gaza’s reconstruction but then freezing it in political blackmail, asserting that his government would step in to support the Palestinian people.
In March 2009, just two month after the war on Gaza, international donors met in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, pledging nearly five billion dollars for the reconstruction of Gaza.
But ever since Hamas wrested control of Gaza away from the Ramallah
-based Palestinian Authority
in 2006, international donors have been confounded as to how to provide aid for Gaza without backing Hamas, which remains on western lists of groups that support terrorism. Further, an Israeli blockade of Gaza’s borders has prevented the import of cement and other building materials needed for a major reconstruction effort.
Hamas has managed to bring cash into the Gaza Strip through smuggling tunnels operating between the Egypt-Gaza border. Soon after the war, its government was able to offer 4,000 Euro to every family that had lost their home.
The inauguration of what promises to be a massive building project took place in al-Tiwam neighborhood of Beit Lahiya
in the northern Gaza Strip, which was subject to bombardment during the war.
In the Salam neighborhood of Jabaliya
, also northern Gaza, the nine-member Khader family is still living in a makeshift caravan after losing their home.
Mohammed Khader, 50, uses the caravan to protect his children from the cold of winter and heat of the summer, extending it with netting and metal sheeting.
Khader, who lost his three-story, 240-square-meter house in the war, told JMCC that he knows nothing about Hamas plans to rebuild homes like his own.
No one promised me about any reconstruction,” he said, “I am waiting for anybody to rebuild my house - Hamas, the PA, the European Union or even the Israelis. I do not care [who does it], I need my house rebuilt, Khader said.
In the spring of last year, Israel announced it was easing its blockade of the Gaza Strip after international pressure appeared to make the policy untenable. Israeli officials then said that building materials would be allowed into the Strip as part of international development projects sanctions by the Palestinian Authority.
Still, most of the building seen in the Gaza Strip has taken place through the use of cement and steel obtained through Gaza’s smuggling tunnels.
The government celebration of the new project was attended by Hamas officials and a visiting Libyan delegation, as well as representatives of civil society organizations.
Haniyeh pulled back the curtain on the cornerstone and expressed his deep thanks to supporting parties, asserting that his government would resume resistance and building.
“One hand builds and one hand resists, he said.