Rebuilding Gaza could take a century if Israel keeps blockade

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The rebuilding of homes, schools and hospitals in Gaza could take more than a century to complete unless an Israeli blockade restricting imports of construction materials into the Gaza Strip is lifted, aid agency Oxfam said on Thursday.

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Gaza needs more than 800,000 truckloads of building materials to repair infrastructure damaged in the 2014 war with Israel, yet less than a quarter of one percent of the materials needed have entered Gaza in the last three months, Oxfam said.

Fifty days of conflict in Gaza between Hamas and Israeli forces in July and August last year killed more than 2,100 Palestinians and 73 Israelis, and left swathes of ruins in the Mediterranean enclave of 1.8 million Palestinians.

Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip after the Islamist movement Hamas won power there in elections in 2006, and both Egpyt and Israel maintain tight controls on the movement of goods and people in and out of the territory.

The longer the blockade continues, the more lives will be at risk, Oxfam regional director Catherine Essoyan said.

“Families have been living in homes without roofs, walls or windows for the past six months. Many have just six hours of electricity a day and are without running water,” Essoyan said in a statement.

Around 100,000 people - more than half of them children - are living in shelters, temporary accommodation or with extended family because their homes were destroyed, Oxfam said.

Thousands more are living in damaged buildings, using plastic sheeting to try to keep out the rain.

Little of the $5.4 billion pledged for Gaza’s reconstruction at a Cairo conference of international donors last October has reached the territory, it added.

Japan contributed $32.2 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) on Thursday, of which $14 million will go toward the cash assistance program for repairs and rent subsidies for Palestinian refugees made homeless by last year’s conflict, UNRWA said.

Last month UNRWA said a lack of international funding had forced it to suspend payments to tens of thousands of Palestinians for repairs to homes damaged in the 2014 war.