A Palestinian woman sits outside her house as she escapes the heat during a power cut at Shatti (beach) refugee camp in Gaza City September 15, 2015. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel authorized the purchase of building materials for the reconstruction of homes in Gaza damaged in 2014’s Operation Protective Edge for the first time in six months on Saturday, a top Palestinian Authority official said Sunday.
Since the war, thousands of Gaza residents have been living in caravans, apartment rentals and the extra bedrooms of friends and relatives.
Naji Sarhan, Palestinian Authority Housing and Public Works deputy minister, told The Jerusalem Post
that a total of 1,500 final approvals were issued on Saturday, adding that he believes they constitute “a positive indication for the future of the Gaza reconstruction process.”
According to the UN-monitored Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, which was created in 2014 to oversee the delivery of building materials for homes partially or completely destroyed during the war, Gazans must receive approval from Israel before purchasing building materials from local vendors.
The UN estimates that 59% of the 17,800 homes that were completely destroyed or severely damaged have been reconstructed or are in the process of being rebuilt, whereas 61% of the 153,200 homes that were partially damaged have been restored or are in the process of being reconstructed.
Israel froze the approval process six months ago, according to Sarhan. However, during that period, building materials were still allowed into Gaza for those residents who had already received approval as well as for the construction of large-scale projects and international agencies.
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, a branch of the Defense Ministry, declined to comment.
The IDF has said that there is a restriction on building materials entering Gaza because some were siphoned off for military purposes, including the construction of attack tunnels along the small coastal enclave’s border with Israel.
Sarhan urged Israel to weigh the consequences of its decision. “We need more building materials to relieve the pressure on the people here. We are humans and we have basic needs, including shelter,” Sarhan said. “It is not fair for Israel to use the tunnels as a pretext to limit the entry of building materials. That is considered collective punishment of two million people.”
Sarhan added that Israel also granted initial approvals to 1,200 other Gazans, who will be authorized to purchase building materials if Israel gives them final approval, while hundreds of others still await initial approval.
Ahmad, one of the 1,500 Gazans who received final approval, said that he, his wife, and four children, have suffered through a roller-coaster experience since the war.
“After our home was completely destroyed in July 2014, we were living in schools and alleyways for 50 days, and then we moved into an apartment rental,” Ahmad said.
“I can now purchase cement to rebuild my home, but I’m still waiting for funding from the Kuwaiti government to pay for it.”
Kuwait is one of a number of countries that has contributed to Gaza reconstruction. However, many of those who have pledged funds have yet to fulfill those pledges.
“This has been a painful and difficult period and I want to be able live in my house with my family,” Ahmad said. “I hope that the funds will come through in the coming days and I can begin rebuilding my home.”