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Blockade must be lifted to rebuild Gaza, says UN official

With more than a month passed since Israel began its ongoing military offensive on Gaza, and with hundreds of thousands Palestinians displaced, figures have begun to emerge about how much rebuilding the battered and besieged Gaza strip will cost. Some UN officials believe it will be $410 million. Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa believes the cost will be far higher, putting the bill at $6 billion. The head of UN's Relief and Works Agency Chris Gunness however, says it is too early to know, or even estimate, the amount needed to reconstruct Gaza. He also believes that funding the reconstruction is not the main barrier to Gaza's recovery. "The one thing we can be certain of is that we will need to lift the blockade if we are to rebuild Gaza," Gunness says. "If they fail to lift the blockade, the peace that we hope to achieve may be short lived." At least 11,855 housing units in Gaza have been destroyed or severely damaged by Israeli attacks and at least 425,000 people are now displaced in emergency shelters or with host families, according to a report published by the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on Sunday. 

Hugh Lovatt, from the European Council on Foreign Relations’ the Middle East Peace Process project, tells Anadolu Agency that although funding Gaza's reconstruction is necessary; it is not enough.

"Funding for the reconstruction in Gaza is basically funding for Israel’s continued occupation," Lovatt says. "We rebuild Gaza and then Israel comes in and blows everything up in the next war."

In 2012 Qatar's emir Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani made a trip to Gaza, the first made by a head of state since Hamas took control in 2007, where he pledged $400 million to build housing complexes and rehabilitate roads in Gaza.

However, addressing the economic side without addressing the deeper political issue will not lead anywhere because Israel and Egypt control crossing points through which material would be brought in to Gaza, according to Lovatt.

A long-term solution to the conflict would require the international community and the EU to change its policies towards Hamas, Lovatt says.

"The policy of boycotting Hamas, of not having any contact with it, is a failure and has not worked," Lovatt says.

It was hoped that a set of negotiations initiated in July 2013 might break the political stand-off but despite months of talks, they failed to reach a final status on the conflict. 

"The last round of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians completely neglected not only Hamas but also neglected the notion of Gaza in its entirety," said Lovatt. "During the nine months, Gaza was hardly ever mentioned."

Monday saw a temporary break in the fighting, with a new Egypt-brokered 72-hour ceasefire between Palestinian resistance groups and Israel coming into effect. Previous ceasefires have failed to materialize into anything more permanent, with fighting resuming almost immediately. 

At least 1939 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli attacks on Gaza since July 7, while more than 10,000 others have been injured.

Israel says "Operation Protective Edge" – its deadliest offensive on the Gaza Strip in six years – is aimed at halting rocket attacks from Gaza.

According to Israeli figures, at least 64 soldiers were killed in battles with Palestinian fighters in the Gaza Strip and three civilians in rocket attacks.

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