Sixteen months after an Israeli military offensive inflicted widespread damage in the Gaza Strip, about three quarters of the damaged buildings and infrastructure have still not been repaired, a new United Nations report says.
The report from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), produced in partnership with the Gaza-based Engineering and Management Consulting Center, estimates that another $527 million will need to be spent to reconstruct all the buildings damaged during Operation Cast Lead, which took place in December 2008 and January 2009.
About $173 million has already been provided through compensation and grants to carry out mostly small-scale repairs, according to the report, One Year After, which was issued today. Those repairs have often been conducted using recycled rubble and other materials brought in from Egypt via cross-border tunnels because of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, instituted for what it called security reasons after Hamas took power there in 2007.
Israel launched the 23-day Operation Cast Lead at the end of 2008 with the stated aim of trying to halt repeated rocket attacks against it from Gaza. More than 1,400 people were killed and at least 5,000 others were injured.
The report – which focuses on both early recovery and reconstruction needs – says educational facilities such as schools are among the categories of buildings hardest hit since the offensive. More than 82 per cent of such facilities remain unrepaired or unreconstructed today.
Private homes are also affected, with almost none of the 3,425 homes that were destroyed in the conflict having been reconstructed. An estimated 75 per cent of agricultural land and premises and 60 per cent of private businesses are also still damaged.
But the report notes that Gaza has been assisted by $151 million given by donors in the form of job-generation schemes, food aid and other projects.
Gaza also experienced “a degree of economic recovery” last year, with a fall in unemployment rates, a rise in the number of operating industrial facilities as well as continued informal trade through the tunnels.
“However, the sustainability of this limited recovery is questionable,” the report states, citing the declining purchasing power of the estimated 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza and their dependence on outside aid.
In a separate development, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today condemned the vandalizing by intruders of a summer games facility in Gaza operated by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
A group of about 30 armed and masked men set fire to the facility, which was under construction near the beach in Gaza City. It was designed to be one of about 35 facilities for a summer games progamme being run by the agency.
“UNRWA's extensive summer games programmes offer a rare opportunity for relief from the deprivations and difficulties of everyday life in Gaza,” Mr. Ban said in a statement issued by his spokesperson.
“This action is an attempt to intimidate and harm the most defenceless in Gaza. The Secretary-General calls upon the de facto authorities to ensure the safety of the UN's operations and to allow UNRWA to carry out its work unhindered.”