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$5.4B Pledged Toward Gaza

  • VOA News

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during the Gaza Donor Conference in Cairo, Egypt, Oct. 12, 2014.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during the Gaza Donor Conference in Cairo, Egypt, Oct. 12, 2014.

International donors have pledged $5.4 billion in aid for the Palestinians, with half the money earmarked for rebuilding the war-torn Gaza Strip.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende announced the total Sunday at the close of a 30-nation conference in Cairo.

Palestinian leaders say they need $4 billion to restore large portions of the territory that were destroyed during the 50-day war between Hamas and Israel that ended in August.

Ahead of the conference, officials expressed concerns about giving money without a lasting cease-fire agreement in place.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Sunday the world has "clearly recognized the massive needs" in Gaza, but that the "cycle of building and destroying must end."

Among the biggest donors was Qatar, the Persian Gulf state with natural gas riches, which pledged $1 billion.

A Palestinian woman walks with her daughter as the remains of a house that witnesses said was destroyed during the 50-day war between the Hamas militant movement and Israel, in the east of Gaza City, Oct. 12, 2014.

A Palestinian woman walks with her daughter as the remains of a house that witnesses said was destroyed during the 50-day war between the Hamas militant movement and Israel, in the east of Gaza City, Oct. 12, 2014.

Exceeding request

The figure easily exceeds the $4 billion Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said would be necessary to restore large portions of the territory that were destroyed during the 50-day war between Hamas militants and Israel in July and August.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced an immediate American donation of $212 million, which is in addition to $202 million in humanitarian aid the U.S. had already committed.

The 28-nation European Union pledged $568 million, while the United Arab Emirates and Turkey both said they would donate $200 million.

Prospects for peace

Without an agreement on a lasting cease-fire or a political framework for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Foreign Minister Brende said there are many legitimate questions about “why donor countries should once again pick up the bill for rebuilding what warring parties have torn down.”

“We have not forgotten the issue of a two-state solution. It is back on the international agenda. And there is now a political momentum built up to pressure the parties to get back to the negotiating table,” said Brende.

Secretary Kerry led nine months of talks on a two-state solution that failed in April. He says the Obama administration remains ready to re-engage in that process, along with allies in Egypt and Jordan.

“We have deep hopes that we can see the leaders of both the Palestinian Authority and of Israel make the decision that there are reasons they can see in the current construct of events in the region, the current leadership of the region, [Egyptian] President [Abdel Fatah] Sissi, King Abdullah of Jordan, others, all of whom want to move in this direction and are ready to contribute to it. And hopefully those leaders will see that this is a moment to take advantage of not to run away from,” said Kerry

Renewed call for two-state solution

Palestinian President Abbas called for an immediate start to talks on a “fair and comprehensive” two-state solution that respects the sovereignty, independence and dignity of the Palestinian people. But he also repeated calls for an investigation into Israeli military action against civilians during the latest fighting.

“The Israeli offensive and the consequential destruction of Gaza cannot be tolerated and it cannot go away without any accountability,” said Abbas, speaking through an interpreter.

Israeli officials were not present for these talks. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the U.N. General Assembly last month that the fact that its Human Rights Council is investigating Israel rather than Hamas “has betrayed its noble mission to protect the innocent.”

Secretary Kerry says breaking this cycle of recrimination and violence “means addressing both the immediate concerns on the ground as well as the underlying causes of the discontent and anger, frustration that has fueled this conflict in the first place.”

Egyptian authorities say they will reconvene indirect talks between the Israelis and Palestinians later this month.

The seven weeks of Israeli bombardment, Palestinian rocket attacks, and ground fighting from early July to late August left more than 2,100 Palestinians dead, most of them civilians, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians.

Scott Stearns contributed to this report from Cairo.

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