Donors pledge aid to rebuild Gaza 
International donors meeting in Egypt are expected to pledge billions
of dollars to rebuild Gaza after Israel's recent offensive.  
The Palestinian Authority (PA) is seeking $2.8bn (£2bn) in foreign aid. 
PA President Mahmoud Abbas told the meeting that funding was "insufficient" 
without a political solution. 
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who pledged $900m, said the
crisis in Gaza could not be separated from the wider peace process. 
"By providing
humanitarian aid to Gaza we also aim to foster conditions in which a
Palestinian state can be fully realised, a state that is a responsible
partner, is at peace with Israel and its Arab neighbours and is
accountable to its people," she said. 
All but essential supplies are still subject to Israeli blockades at the 
crossing points into Gaza. 
GAZA DESTRUCTION 

        * 14,000 homes 
        * 219 factories 
        * 240 schools UNDP estimates  

And donors stress that aid should not be channelled through Hamas,
which both the US and the EU regard as a terrorist organisation. 
Some 1,300 Palestinians, of whom 412 were children,
were killed during fighting in December and January, with thousands of
homes and businesses destroyed. 
Israel and Hamas declared unilateral truces on 17 January. Neither are 
attending the conference. 
'One viable future'  
Donations from the one-day conference at Egypt's Red Sea resort are
expected to exceed the Palestinians request for $2.8bn (£2bn). 
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton - in her first visit to the
Middle East as America's top diplomat - has brought with her a cheque
for $900m, while Saudi Arabia is expected to reaffirm its promised $1bn
(£703m) for Gaza. 
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told
delegates that while all the support was appreciated, "we insist on the
pressing need to achieve substantial progress towards a just settlement
[of the conflict with Israel]". 
"We are all conscious that the reconstruction and
development efforts will remain insufficient, powerless and threatened
in the absence of a political settlement," he said at the conference. 
The conference heard similar calls from other speakers. 
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told delegates: "There is only one
viable future: Palestinians and Israelis living side by side in peace
and security." 
"If ever there were a time to think freshly, to lead boldly, it is now," he 
added. 
“ The situation at the border crossings is intolerable  ” 
Ban Ki-moon 
UN Secretary General 
French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged "responsible Palestinians" to seek peace 
with Israel. 
"You must admit that there is no other road to the creation of a
Palestinian state but to engage resolutely in searching for a political
solution and engage in a dialogue with Israel," he said in a message to
Hamas. 
Mrs Clinton said the US was working with the PA "to
install safeguards that will ensure our funding is only used where and
for whom it is intended and does not end up in the wrong hands," a
reference to Hamas. 
Following the conference, she is due to travel to both
Israel and the Palestinian territories to speak to leaders from both
sides. 
'Open crossings'  
The main obstacle to reconstruction of Gaza are the crossings which
remain largely closed to all but essential supplies, says the BBC's
Christian Fraser in Sharm el-Sheikh. 
Ban Ki-moon described the situation at the crossings as "intolerable". 
"Aid workers do not have access. Essential commodities cannot get in.
Our first and indispensable goal, therefore, is open crossings," he
told delegates. 
"By the same token, however, it is therefore essential to ensure that illegal 
weapons do not enter Gaza." 
Israel said it fully supported the conference and the idea of
strengthening support for the people of Gaza through humanitarian and
reconstruction aid. 
"But we must be clear," spokesman Mark Regev said.
"Like the international community, Israel does not want to see support
to Hamas. We want to see support for the people of Gaza." 
The Palestinian Authority has proposed that all aid to
Gaza is channelled through itself rather than Hamas, which won
elections to the Palestinian parliament in 2006 and consolidated its
control of Gaza by force a year later. 
Although Israel and the Middle East Quartet refuse to
speak to Hamas, UN agencies working in Gaza do co-ordinate with the
Hamas government. 
UN relief agency Unrwa says it has contacts with Hamas
"even at ministerial level", but strictly on technical issues related
to the delivery of its humanitarian services in line with wider UN
policy.  
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Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/middle_east/7918105.stm

Published: 2009/03/02 11:14:26 GMT

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