A woman walks in the rubble after Israeli air strikes and shelling in Khuzaa.
(photo credit: FINBARR O'REILLY / REUTERS)
Israel must play a central role in the reconstruction of Gaza, the United States said on Wednesday.
In a press briefing in Washington, US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki welcomed efforts by Israel and the Palestinians to allow the entry of much-needed aid into Gaza, following 50 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas.
"We were pleased to see that the UN, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority agreed on procedures aimed at expediting the passage of relief materials into [the Strip] while taking into account Israel’s security needs," Psaki told reporters.
She called on the organizers of the upcoming international donors conference on the rehabilitation of Gaza – which will be co-hosted by Egypt and Norway this weekend in Cairo – to include "all governments who can play a role" in assisting the war-torn enclave.
Psaki said the US was hopeful there would be, as in the past, more contributions to the cause. As for Israel's exact part in the reconstruction efforts, she said "they have contributed materials in the past, and we certainly hope they’ll do the same again."
The Obama administration expected both sides to agree on a permanent deal that "addresses the long-term issues" and will prevent another cycle of violence. "...We’re working towards a lasting cease-fire," Psaki added.
The cost of rebuilding the coastal territory in the wake of a seven-week battle, which has left entire neighborhoods flattened and hundreds of thousands homeless, is estimated to stand at just about $8 billion, according to PA projections.
It is believed that 17,000 homes were demolished during Israel's operation, which also took out Gaza's single power plant that the PA says will cost $250 million to repair.
While Psaki – responding to the question who was to blame for "the amount of aid, assistance" that went into projects that have been destroyed: Hamas, Israel or both – said she did not intend to play "the blame game," she did offer the administration's long-held concerns about "Hamas and their indiscriminate rockets" and "the fact that at times there was more Israel could do to avoid civilian casualties."