It was promised from all sides: the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip would begin this month, following the short but fierce war that Israel and Hamas fought this spring. But apart from a few Egyptian bulldozers clearing debris, there is still little to see about reconstruction. Not that there would be nothing to do: thousands of homes have been wiped out throughout the area.
One of the most prominent destroyed buildings is the Jalaa Tower, with the editors of TV channel Al Jazeera and AP news agency. Israel bombed the building on 15 May, according to its own say because Hamas would have an intelligence office there. Israel says it has proof of that, although it has never been made public.
People who lived and worked in the tower lost everything. They‘re trying to pick up their lives again:
The mediators are one of the many buildings that were razed in the May violence. A total of 2200 homes were completely destroyed in Gaza, according to figures from Hamas, the militant organization that governs Gaza. Another 37,000 houses were damaged. More than 250 Palestinians were killed during hostilities, with 13 victims on Israeli side.
No money, no stuff
Reconstruction in Gaza requires a lot of money: initially around 300 to more than 400 million euros, the World Bank calculated this summer. Work would start in October, but very little is happening. This is mainly due to two things: lack of money and limited access to building materials.
In fact, there should be no shortage of funding. After the armistice, several countries soon pledged a big bag of money. For example, Egypt and Qatar each promised half a billion dollars for reconstruction in Gaza.
But there is little of all promises, the Dutch UN diplomat Yvonne Helle sees too. “Aid is stagnating tremendously,” says Helle, who runs the United Nations Development Programme in the Palestinian Territories. “There is very little interest from the international community in supporting reconstruction compared to previous wars. The promised money from Egypt also remains out. Countries don’t cross the bridge, that‘s pretty bleak.”
many Palestinians have little faith in reconstruction. “In the previous war of 2014, many people lost their homes,” says Suzan Jarousha, who became homeless with her family this spring. “These people’s homes haven‘t even been rebuilt yet. Why would they help us?” The story of the tower where Suzan Jarousha lived can be seen above in the video.
The escalation in May was certainly not the first conflict between Israel and Hamas. Over the past 15 years, the two sides fought several bloody wars. And even after this outburst of violence, they are unable to agree on a long-term file for the time being.
The lack of political breakthrough is a reason for many donor countries to keep their hands on the cutting. It is difficult to invest in reconstruction, says the European Union Representative in the area, as long as the spiral of violence is not ended: “EU taxpayers cannot be expected to pay every time the infrastructure destroyed every four to five years at a violent conflict in Gaza,” said EU envoy Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff.
Other countries are reluctant to pull the wallet as well. And most Gazans themselves don’t have the means to rebuild their homes. Unemployment in the area is around 50% and many families live in poverty.
Tunnels or Weapons
Another problem is a major lack of building materials. Israel and Egypt control the borders of the Gaza Strip, a small area with the area of two times the island of Texel. The main gateway lies on the Israeli border, but Israel does not allow or limited enough stuff, fearing Hamas could turn it into tunnels or weapons. For example, no building materials were allowed at all in June and July.
Israel has now eased a number of restrictions, bringing in the first loads of cement and steel. Things are also being supplied from Egypt, but many materials remain scarce.
A political solution seems to be a prerequisite for smooth reconstruction. But such a solution is farther away than ever. Not only because of the persistent hostility between Hamas and Israel, but also because of the internal Palestinian divisions. Hamas is dealing with President Mahmoud Abbas‘ Palestinian Authority (PA). While Hamas controls Gaza Strip, the PA has power in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
It makes many Gaza residents pessimistic about the future. Yet Suzan Jarousha tries to keep the courage: “I would love to go back to our old house with ourtreasured items,” she says in her temporary shelter. “But we’re trying to stay positive and look into the future. Because life goes on.”