Cash alone 'will not mend Gaza'

Political action as well as funding is needed to resolve the crisis facing 
Gaza, an international donors' conference in Egypt has been told.

The Palestinians have asked for $2.8bn (£2bn) to help rebuild the enclave after 
Israel's three-week offensive.

But Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told the summit cash was "insufficient" 
without a political solution.

His comments were echoed by new US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who 
pledged $900m toward the effort.

"Our response to today's crisis in Gaza cannot be separated from our broader 
efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace," Mrs Clinton told the conference, in 
her first visit to the Middle East as America's top diplomat.

She said the aim of the aid was to "foster conditions in which a Palestinian 
state can be fully realised".

Some 1,300 Palestinians, of whom 412 were children, were killed and thousands 
of homes and businesses destroyed in December and January as Israel tried to 
bring an end to cross-border rocket attacks by Palestinian militants.

Hamas, which controls Gaza but is regarded by both the US and the EU as a 
terrorist organisation, was not invited to attend the one-day conference at 
Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

'One viable future'

Donations are expected to exceed the Palestinians' request for $2.8bn (£2bn). 
As well as Mrs Clinton's $900m, Saudi Arabia is expected to reaffirm its 
promised $1bn (£703m) for Gaza.

“ The situation at the border crossings is intolerable ”
Ban Ki-moon UN Secretary General

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said 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.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said now was the "time to think freshly, to 
lead boldly".

"There is only one viable future: Palestinians and Israelis living side by side 
in peace and security," he told delegates.

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.

Aid flows

Raising money for Gaza is the easy part, the BBC's Christian Fraser in Egypt 

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

The real business of the conference is the practicalities of how to get it to 
the people who need it most, he adds.

All but essential supplies are still subject to Israeli blockades at the 
crossing points into Gaza.

Building and raw materials deemed by Israel to be useful to militants as well 
as civilians have been banned.

Aid workers say products turned away at the border have included macaroni, 
lentils, paper and school books.

Mr Ban 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.

But he said it was also "essential" to ensure that illegal weapons were 
prevented from being allowed to enter Gaza.

Donor countries as well as Israel, which did not attend the conference, have 
stressed that they do not want aid to end up in the hands of Hamas.

"Like the international community, Israel does not want to see support to 
Hamas," Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said. "We want to see support 
for the people of Gaza."

The Palestinian Authority has proposed that all aid to Gaza is channelled 
through itself.

Although Israel and Western negotiators 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:

Published: 2009/03/02 13:06:27 GMT


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