A Palestinian boy plays near the ruins of his family house that witnesses said was destroyed by Israeli shelling during the past summer's war in Gaza.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The UN warned this week violence could once break out once again between Israel and Hamas unless donor countries fulfilled the monetary pledges to help rebuild Gaza.
Some $5.4 billion was pledged for the Palestinians at a Cairo conference in October, about half of which was earmarked for Gaza.
“Four months after the Cairo Conference, donors have yet to fulfill the vast majority of their pledges,” the UN’s Under Secretary for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman told the Security Council in New York on Wednesday. “This is frankly unacceptable and cannot continue if we hope to avoid another escalation in Gaza.
“We see the circumstances in Gaza as becoming increasingly worrisome as we approach the six-month mark since the end of last summer’s conflict,” he said.
Feltman also addressed other problematic issues with respect to continued calm, including ongoing restrictions with regard to goods and people at the two Israeli crossings into Gaza and the Rafah passageway from Gaza into Egypt, which remains closed. He called on Egypt to reopen Rafa as some 1,400 medical patients seeking treatment and 15,000 others wait to cross.
A permanent cease-fire agreement is needed between Israel and Hamas, Feltman said, noting, however, that the Palestinian factions have yet to reunify.
Yet, the most pressing need in the aftermath of last summer’s conflict between Hamas and Israel, he said, is the reconstruction of Gaza, which is moving slowly due to lack of funds.
“The combination of the failure to rectify the persistent governance and security issues and the slow pace of reconstruction has
created an increasingly toxic environment,” Feltman claimed. “A key component of reversing these negative trends is implementation of the financial commitments made by donors at the Cairo conference. Failure to deliver the necessary support is putting an almost unbearable strain on an already highly fractious environment.”
Thanks to the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, he said, some construction work has progressed in Gaza, indicating that more than 47,000 people already have procured construction material.
The Palestinian Authority, he said, has approved 18 of 50 construction projects for homes, schools and water.
Turning to the issue of the PA in the West Bank, Feltman warned that the Palestinian fiscal crisis was not sustainable.
The Israeli government has withheld more than $200 million in tax revenue it collects on their behalf to protest the Palestinian decision to join the International Criminal Court, he said, noting that withholding those funds is a violation of the Paris Protocol of the Oslo Accords.
The Palestinian Authority has borrowed funds from private banks to pay civil servant salaries, he said. According to a January report by the International Monetary Fund, Palestinian economic activity contracted in 2014 for the first time since 2006, he added.
Meanwhile, the Quartet principals met on February 8 in Munich where they called for the revival of the peace process and the acceleration of reconstruction in Gaza, and Feltman said he hoped the international community, through the Quartet, could help the parties return to negotiations.
Establishing a framework for that peace must be a priority, he said. “The Secretary-General is determined that the UN will continue to play an active role in supporting these efforts,” he said.