U.N. brokers agreement to start Gaza rebuilding

An estimated 18,000 houses have been destroyed or severely damaged, the U.N.’s top Mideast envoy said

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The United Nations has brokered an agreement to enable the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, entrusting the lead role to the Palestinian Authority, the Associated Press reported the U.N.’s top Mideast envoy as saying on Tuesday.

The agreement was brokered between the Palestinian Authority and Israel and includes monitoring by the United Nations to ensure that construction materials will not be siphoned off for military use, envoy Robert Serry told the U.N. Security Council.

Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, a 50-day-war, left more than 2,100 Palestinians dead, according to Palestinian and U.N. officials. On the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and six civilians were killed.

Serry said he witnessed “truly shocking levels of destruction to infrastructure, hospitals and schools” during a visit to Gaza last week.

An estimated 18,000 houses have been destroyed or severely damaged, he added. Some 100,000 people have lost their homes, “leaving families shattered and despairing.” Serry said that 111 U.N. facilities were damaged and over 65,000 displaced Palestinians are still living in U.N. shelters, the Associated Press reported.

“The Gaza conflict is an appalling human tragedy, and has also exacted a terrible cost in already strained trust,” Serry said. “While the cease-fire brokered by Egypt has largely held since Aug. 16, it remains worryingly fragile with the underlying dynamics still unaddressed.”

According to the envoy, the United Nations considers the “temporary mechanism” to rebuild Gaza “a signal of hope to the people of Gaza.” He stressed that it “must get up and running without delay.”

Serry said the agreement will help give international donors confidence that what they are investing in will be implemented “expeditiously, and solely for their intended civilian purpose.” He further warned that a repeat of the 2009 pledges to Gaza should not take place, when finances and materials were donated but “there was no possibility to implement these projects” because of issues over getting construction materials into the Strip.

The latest agreement comes ahead of a donor’s conference to fund Gaza’s reconstruction on Oct. 12 hosted by Egypt and co-sponsored by Norway.

(With the Associated Press)

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