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UN aid agency to Gazans: Sorry, but there's no money

Only $135 million of pledged donor money has been delivered to Gaza, hundreds of millions short of what’s needed, the UN agency says. As a result, it is suspending its aid programs for those most affected by the war.

By Yael Marom

Palestinians stand in front of the entrance of Remal Elementary UNRWA School which is used as a temporary shelter by Palestinians living in the Norther part of the Gaza Strip, Gaza City on July 13, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinians stand in front of the entrance of Remal Elementary UNRWA School which is used as a temporary shelter by Palestinians living in the Norther part of the Gaza Strip, Gaza City on July 13, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

UNRWA, the UN relief agency charged with providing aid to Palestinian refugees, announced Tuesday that it is suspending its financial aid program to the thousands of Gazans whose homes were destroyed during Operation Protective Edge last summer. The program was intended to assist them in repairing houses, as well as renting apartments for those who have remained homeless since the assault.

According to a statement by UNRWA, more than 96,000 homes belonging to refugees were damaged or destroyed during Protective Edge, and the cost to repair them is estimated at $720 million. Until now, UNRWA claims that it only received $135 million of the pledges for the program.

Read also: Report details IDF ‘double tap’ bombings in Gaza war

At a summit held last October in Cairo, donor states pledged over $5.4 billion for reconstruction in the Strip. The head of UNRWA in Gaza, Robert Turner, said that only a small portion of that money made it to Gaza, and called the decision to suspend the program troubling and unacceptable.

“If we cannot continue the program, it will have grave consequences for affected communities in Gaza,” Turner said in a statement. “People are desperate and the international community cannot even provide the bare minimum – for example a repaired home in winter – let alone a lifting of the blockade, access to markets or freedom of movement. We’ve said before that quiet will not last, and now the quiet is at risk.”

Palestinians walk through the Shujayea neighborhood of Gaza City, nearly three months since a cease fire ended Operation Protective Edge, November 16, 2014. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinians walk through the Shujayea neighborhood of Gaza City, nearly three months since a cease fire ended Operation Protective Edge, November 16, 2014. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

According to statistics published by the United Nations, over 100,000 homes in Gaza were damaged during Operation Protective Edge (nearly 20,000 homes were entirely destroyed, while 80,000 were damaged). Tens of thousands of people in Gaza, including children, live and sleep in plastic shelters and tents that cannot protect them against rain or cold. Those without homes live among the ruins of their former houses, facing the threat of rain which can easily collapse or flood their shelters.

For Israelis it seems that the relative quiet of the past few months has been maintained. But for the residents of Gaza, the situation is entirely different. The Israeli army continues to fire on Palestinian fishermen and anyone who approaches the Israel-Gaza border; children continue to be killed by unexploded ordinances; workers continue to strike; and the siege by both Israel and Egypt continues unabated. This Monday Israel forbade a Palestinian minister from leaving the Strip to attend a conference in the West Bank.

Read also: 2014 Story of the Year: Gaza

After a request by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last week, Egypt opened the Rafah Crossing for three days, prompting thousands of Palestinians to try and leave Gaza. However, the Egyptian authorities only allowed students, medical patients and those with foreign passports to leave.

While Israelis are gearing up for elections, Gaza is entirely absent from any public discussion in Israel. Perhaps its absence from the election debate is due to a consensus among candidates — ranging from the center-left to the far-right — that the “Gaza problem” will only continue, and cannot be solved by another war, and another war, and another war. Meanwhile, the government will maintain the siege, and Israelis will continue to wonder: why are those Gazans so mean to us?

Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a co-editor of Local Call, where this article was originally published in Hebrew.

Related:
War on Gaza: A promise Israeli politicians can keep
PHOTOS: In Gaza, rebuilding is still over the horizon

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    COMMENTS

    1. Pedro X

      “to the victor goes the spoils”

      Hamas tells everyone it won the war. Palestinians also believe they won the war. So as victors they should own the death and destruction they wrought. They should be principally responsible for the rehabilitation of Gaza.

      The steady flow of welfare from UNWRA and the international community to Palestinians have allowed violent groups like Hamas to spend billions on wars against Israel and not to meet the needs of its people.

      Hamas refuses to disarm. Hamas leaders hold billions of dollars, which they are not investing in rebuilding Gaza. Hamas is taxing everything coming into Gaza and seizing cement supplies for rebuilding its tunnels. It continues with its missile program, manufacturing more rockets and firing test rockets in to the sea.

      Reconstruction is not Hamas’ primary goal. Its primary goal remains the destruction of the Israeli state and it is prepared to wage war after war in pursuit of its goal. It attempts to transfer its missile technology to the West Bank.

      Hamas attempted to enter into an Unity government with Fatah so that it could free itself to continue its jihad against Israel without having to deal with mundane needs of its citizens, like food, shelter or education.

      The Unity government lacks any unity. Hamas and Fatah remain at each other’s throat.

      It is no surprise that so few donations are flowing given that Hamas continues to engage in terrorism, rebuilding its military capacity and is sure to engage in another conflict with Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    2. ICat

      “People are desperate and the international community cannot even provide the bare minimum – for example a repaired home in winter – let alone a lifting of the blockade, access to markets or freedom of movement. We’ve said before that quiet will not last, and now the quiet is at risk.”

      The solution is very simple: demilitarize Gaza. Except Palestinians who depend on others to feed them, pay for everything they do, tell them what to do and blame others for their failures, People around the world work very hard to earn their money and pay their taxes. The money being poured into the Palestinian society by the West comes from the average Western taxpayers who struggle on a daily basis to survive, while the members of the Palestinian leadership and their extended family members become multi millionaires with the hard earned money from those Western taxpayers. Regardless, no one is ready to throw money into reconstructing Gaza with the knowledge that such would be nothing but complete waste of money. Believe it or not, as we speak, Hamas is preparing for another war and we know how that always ends: http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Hamas-operatives-in-Gaza-test-fire-several-rockets-into-Mediterranean-388974. Anyone who truly cares about Gaza should not only start addressing the Hamas-question, but also publicly and forcefully speak out against- and oppose Hamas and its culture of extremism, violence and death.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Mikesailor

      Hairball: The amount of money ever given the Palestinians is a pittance compared to the funds lavished on their occupier. And considering Israel skims money off the top, along with Egypt now, Israel has created a replica writ large of the Warsaw Ghetto. Or do you consider it just a large concentration camp? Proud of yourself? The ghetto comes complete with guard towers enforcing free-fire kill-zones in Gazan territory, drone air strikes at the whim of their Jewish overlords etc. Civilians are killed with more relish than anyone else and all deaths will be blamed on the occupied, not the occupier. Hamas is extreme? Zionists have killed far more Palestinians than Hamas ever could kill Israelis. Remember, the Israeli began using terrorism before ’48, Hamas was a relative newcomer developed and funded by Israel in an attempt to vie for power with the PLO. The problem for Israel is they wouldn’t stay “bought” so the Israelis purchased the PA instead with the Quisling-in-chief Abbas running an illegitimate government. I see you now have JPost lining your box. You really have to get a better brand of litter.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Linda Carraway

      This is so sad. It is not the first time that $ pledges to such countries have failed to materialize, e.g. Haiti following its devastating earthquake.
      While NGOs cannot give the huge donations that were promised to Palestine and Haiti, they DO help to fill some of the needs of such god-forsaken countries. In the case of Palestine, I donate to the Middle East Children’s Alliance and Islamic Relief, both approved charities at http://www.charitynavigator.org

      Reply to Comment