Qatar funds major project to rebuild Gaza
By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA | Tue Oct 16, 2012 3:49pm EDT
GAZA (Reuters) - Qatar on Tuesday launched a $254 million plan to rebuild
and modernize Gaza, the biggest injection of reconstruction aid for the
Palestinian enclave since it was devastated in an Israeli military offensive
nearly four years ago.
Projects announced at a news conference by Qatari ambassador Mohammed
Al-Amadi will require the cooperation of Israel and Egypt to admit building
materials and heavy machinery to Gaza, which is under a partial blockade.
Amadi said this had been arranged. Work would begin on site within three
months, starting with a highway that will run the length of the
Mediterranean coastal strip.
The projects are of sufficient scale to transform Gaza and the lives of its
1.6 million people, 28 percent of whom are unemployed.
Economists said thousands of jobs would be created by local contractors who
have won tenders to do the work and smaller businesses that will supply and
The Islamist Hamas movement which rules Gaza welcomed the announcement as
proof that Gaza had emerged from isolation. An aide to Hamas prime minister
Ismail Haniyeh called it "the first drop of rain".
Hamas is shunned by the West as a terrorist organization because it is
pledged to destroy Israel. But its position is shifting: ties to Shi'ite
Muslim Iran have loosened over the past year and it has grown closer to the
Sunni Muslim Brotherhood which now governs Egypt and the conservative Arab
Gulf state of Qatar.
Qatar's envoy said politics played no role in the emirate's aid decision,
but acknowledged that the government of Gaza would ultimately benefit, in
addition to the people.
"The policy of the state of Qatar is that we make the projects, we design
them, we finance them, and once they are finished we hand them over to the
relevant ministry," he said. This is the policy of Qatar everywhere we act
and Gaza is no exception."
"Thanks Qatar. You have fulfilled the promise," read a large billboard in
"Injecting such an amount of money in development and infrastructure
projects would certainly get the economic wheels moving and bring down
unemployment," said Gaza economist Maher Al-Tabba.
Parts of Gaza were left in ruins in January 2009 after Israel's three-week
military offensive to stop Hamas and other Gaza militant groups firing
rockets and mortars at southern Israeli communities.
More than 1,300 Palestinians were killed and 13 Israelis died in the
conflict. Roads, homes, offices and factories were destroyed and subsequent
reconstruction was choked by tight Israeli controls on any material that
might have a military use.
Gazans started rebuilding from the rubble itself and smuggling cement from
Egypt via tunnels until Israel partially eased restrictions in mid-2010,
allowing Gaza's economy to revive from rock bottom.
The Qatar project will renew three main roads, establish a new town, build a
hospital and residential buildings and overhaul the infrastructure.
"Because of the political situation it wasn't possible until now," Amadi
told Reuters. "These projects are not for Hamas, they are for the people of
Asked if Qatar was confident that what it helps to build over the next three
years would not be smashed in a future war, the ambassador answered that
"human life is more precious than bricks and steel.
"I don't think these are targets Israel would hit in the future. This is
what we are hoping."
(Writing by Douglas Hamilton; Editing by Janet Lawrence)
WorldIsraelMiddle East Turmoil