Monday, 13 April 2015

Aid groups urge world to push for end to Gaza blockade

A coalition of international aid groups urged the world Monday to deliver on aid promises for Gaza reconstruction and pressure Israel to lift its blockade of the territory, where rebuilding efforts have stalled since last summer’s Israel-Hamas war.

Donor countries pledged $3.5 billion six months ago for rebuilding thousands of homes and businesses destroyed in the war, but reconstruction has barely begun and living conditions in the territory of 1.8 million people have only worsened, according to a report by the Association of International Development Agencies.

The report, signed by 46 aid groups, said only open borders and a durable Israel-Hamas cease-fire can bring economic, social and political stability to Gaza. Otherwise, “a return to conflict — and the cycles of damage and donor-funded reconstruction that accompany it — is inevitable,” the report said.

The groups said the international community should adopt a new Gaza policy, including by pressuring Israel to lift what they said is an illegal blockade. The report said most donors have been trying to work around the border restrictions, rather than challenging them.

Israel and Egypt have been enforcing tight access and trade restrictions since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized Gaza in 2007. Under the closure rules, the vast majority of Gaza residents cannot travel or export, though Israel permits imports of consumer goods to the territory.

Israel and Egypt say they need to maintain the closure because Hamas, shunned by much of the world as a terror group, poses a security threat. Israel has fought three wars with Hamas in the past six years, in part to try to halt Gaza rocket fire on Israeli towns.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon dismissed the report as “hostile and one-sided.” more

NGOs condemn donors over slow Gaza reconstruction

Six months after donors pledged billions of dollars for devastated Gaza, most of the money remains blocked, and reconstruction efforts are painfully slow, a coalition of aid groups said Monday.

The report also condemned the international community for failing to help open the blockaded Palestinian territories up to each other, to broker a lasting ceasefire with Israel and to hold the two sides accountable.

"If we do not change course now to address these core issues the situation in Gaza will only continue to worsen," Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA) said.

"Without economic, social and political stability, a return to conflict -- and the cycles of damage and donor-funded reconstruction that accompany it -- is inevitable," the coalition added.

The report comes six months after participants in the Cairo donor conference pledged about $5.4 billion in aid for Gaza, flattened by a 50-day war that killed 2,200 Palestinians and 73 Israelis.

"Six months later, reconstruction and rehabilitation have barely kicked off," said the report, written by major charities including CARE International, Oxfam, Save the Children and the Norwegian Refugee Council.

"Donors should make good on the pledges made at the Cairo conference and move forward with reconstruction and recovery projects for Gaza," it said, adding that funding should immediately be made available to allow housing repairs.

According to the report, the war completely destroyed 12,400 houses and damaged over 160,000 homes.

Yet "there has been no accountability to address violations of international law, only 26.8 percent of the money has been released, reconstruction and recovery have barely begun, and people in Gaza remain in dire straits", AIDA said.

The war displaced more than a quarter of Gaza's population of 1.7 million and left 100,000 people homeless. more