The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Gaza has said that the situation in Gaza is very complicated due to the existing political conflict, while the recent conflict between Israel and Gaza led to the displacement of more than 52,000 Palestinians. It has noted that in the early days, a large proportion of citizens were displaced to 58 UN-run schools in Gaza, but after the military conflict, these schools were evacuated from the displaced, and a large majority of them live on the ruins of their destroyed homes, because they were unable to find an alternative shelter.
As the prospect of new violent actions on the border with the Gaza Strip has escalated, positions differed between Anthony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, and Naftali Bennett, Israeli Prime Minister, regarding linking the Strip’s reconstruction to the release of Israeli prisoners, held by Hamas. Israeli press sources have revealed a controversy between Blinken and Bennett during their meeting last Saturday about linking the captured soldiers to the Gaza reconstruction and its needs.
Since the end of the Israeli/Hamas war on Gaza on May 21, Hamas and Egypt have engaged in consultations on the Gaza reconstruction plans, while Israel has imposed its conditions and the Palestinian Authority has stuck its right to the finance management of the file. However, all understandings have reached a dead end due to various obstacles, preventing the possibility of reconstructing Gaza soon after the conflict between Hamas and the authority.
Israel, for its part, has been working, after pressure from Egyptian and international mediators, to provide temporary facilities to the residents of the Gaza Strip, represented in opening border crossings, re-transferring mail. This step came with the aim of consolidating the cease-fire between the two sides, while Israeli facilities did not allow the entry of funds allocated for relief projects on which about a quarter of the population of the Strip depend on, in addition to preventing the entry of 10,000 trucks loaded with goods into the Gaza Strip.
The reconstruction of Gaza led by Egypt faces thorny political challenges and obstacles, in light of the Israeli demand linking the reconstruction to the issue of prisoners held by Hamas since the 2014 war.
“All the destroyed houses will be built within a year, if the funds for the reconstruction arrive,” says Naji Sarhan, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Housing in Gaza and member of Hamas. “There are a number of buildings that were bombed by the occupation did not fall and need to be removed, this requires heavy equipment to help in removing, Gaza lacks this type of machinery, the ministry is in the process of removing a large number of houses to ensure the safety of citizens, and this It will double the ministry’s efforts in light of the lack of capabilities due to the Israeli blockade,” he notes.
The Hamas official claims that about 1,800 houses were destroyed, in which about 63,000 citizens lived, while the number of partially damaged housing units has reached 16,800 housing units. According to him, as a result of this destruction, nearly 50,000 citizens were forced to flee to the shelters, and more than 70,000 were displaced outside these centers. Citizens are increasingly afraid that the reconstruction process will not be implemented and that all efforts made will be hampered. Especially since the conflict over the reconstruction file may lead to a postponement for several months, this would “keep the citizens suffering in light of the Israeli continuous intensification siege on the Gaza Strip”.
The existing conditions in Gaza do not promise well for the existence of what would pave the way for a real intention by the various parties to complete the reconstruction, because the US, Israeli and even international consensus rejects Hamas taking over the reconstruction due to huge corruption scandals. As well, many independent observers in Gaza don’t trust Hamas in using international funds for reconstructing the region, but financing future terror attacks. However, this pressure by the parties makes Hamas’ position weak, given that any agreement will not pass without US-Israeli approval.
According to Israeli military experts, the political and military circles in Israel insist on changing the existing equation in front of Hamas in Gaza. The Israeli position now is not to bring in any money for the Gaza reconstruction except through the Palestinian Authority and in practice until progress on the issue of the detained Israeli prisoners in Gaza, there will be no talk of reconstruction and no goods will be brought into Gaza except for some humanitarian equipment. Also the Palestinian Authority has come to realize that removing it from the Gaza reconstruction file would establish a new stage through which it may lose the confidence of the international community and donor countries, because it will lose part of its legitimacy to represent all Palestinians.
The citizens, whose homes were destroyed, need a shelter to live in temporarily in light of the intense heat and the absence of any close solutions. The difficult economic conditions in Gaza deprive many affected people of the possibility of renting houses from their own pockets, due to the high cost of monthly rent compared to the average income of families. This matter needs support from relief and international institutions, but those affected have lost sufficient support.
Saeed Al-Hattab, whose house was destroyed by Israeli warplanes, is trying to collect some large stones from his house ruins to build a base for a small tent in which he lives with his family of nine. This family lost its only shelter and did not find a place to live especially since the family lives in difficult financial conditions. This is the only step for this family, after they lost hope in quickly rebuilding their home or providing them with sufficient financial aid.
Al-Hattab, who set up a tent that could barely protect him from the summer heat, next to his destroyed house in the Shujaiya neighborhood, east of the city, said to Mena Monitor that the destruction of his house constituted a humanitarian disaster. No one, whether from the government or the competent authorities, provides sufficient financial assistance to enable him to obtain a temporary home, as UNRWA is the only agency that has provided him with an amount of $1,500 for one time only. Also, losing his hope of rebuilding his house as a result of the faltering of the Gaza reconstruction file, forced him to stay beside his house as the only solution in front of him, fearing the coming of winter while he was in this state in light of the compatibility difficulty to start reconstruction.
He also held the Palestinian government in Gaza responsible for its failure to provide support and compensation to those affected, whether through the disbursement of monthly rent allowances or the provision of apartments until progress is made in the reconstruction file and the rebuilding of destroyed homes.
In a press statement, Naji Sarhan, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Works in Gaza and representative of Hamas, has said that the government in Gaza and the competent authorities have not received any funds for reconstruction from donors, and donations from several Arab countries are not enough to be distributed to all those affected. He has noted that there are hopes that these funds will enter soon, so that they can immediately begin the reconstruction.
“There is a noticeable decline in international attention regarding the Gaza reconstruction file. Months after the aggression, there is nothing on the ground that suggests real and close intentions to start the reconstruction of Gaza, and this has increased the resentment of the citizens and owners of the destroyed and stopped economic factories,” Alif Sabbagh, writer and political analyst, says.
Sabbagh indicates that Israel, in addition to perpetuating the citizens suffering in Gaza by causing destruction to their homes and properties, has established the Palestinian division again, after it ignited differences between Hamas and Fatah over managing the Gaza reconstruction file. As a result, it has become difficult to bring funds from abroad and deliver them to the affected people to alleviate their suffering.
“The internal political situation in Gaza is one of the factors behind the decline of this file. The conditions set by the Authority for the passage of reconstruction funds through it are the most prominent reasons that led to the delay of the reconstruction file, and intensified the exchange and accusations between Hamas and Fatah,” Sabbagh, says, in his interview with Mena monitor.
The political analyst does not rule out that Gaza will face more suffering than the one it is experiencing, given that the current facts suggest an imminent return to escalation with Israel, and Israel’s unwillingness to alleviate the suffering of Gaza residents, allow the entry of aid funds, and the increasing suffering of thousands of families whose homes were destroyed in the recent war.