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Qatar Pledges $1B for Gaza Strip Reconstruction

Qatar pledged $1 billion Sunday toward the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip after this year’s devastating 50-day Israel-Hamas war as one of its Gulf Arab rivals, the United Arab Emirates, promised $200 million.

The Qatari pledge, announced by Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah, came during a one-day conference on the reconstruction of Gaza that opened in the Egyptian capital. Delegates representing some 50 nations and 20 regional and international organizations applauded the pledge.

Beside the Emirates’ $200 million, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced immediate U.S. assistance of $212 million earlier Sunday.

The Emirates, like regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia, charges that Qatar has been using its massive wealth undermine stability in the region, primarily through aiding militant Islamic groups, including Gaza’s Hamas.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said Gaza needs $4 billion to rebuild. He said the latest Gaza war caused “tragedies that are difficult to be described by words. … Entire neighborhoods have been reduced to rubble.”

“The (Palestinian) government will carry out the reconstruction plan with full responsibility and transparency in coordination with the U.N., the donors, international financial institutions, civil society and the private sector,” he said.

Donors plan to funnel the aid through Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, and bypass Hamas. On hand for the conference were representatives of more than 50 countries, mostly foreign ministers, and at least 20 regional and international organizations, including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and European Union negotiator Catherine Ashton.

Leading participants said the reconstruction of Gaza cannot be carried out in isolation from efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian talks in search of a comprehensive and lasting settlement.

“We must not lose sight of the root causes of the recent hostilities: A restrictive occupation that has lasted almost half a century, the continued denial of Palestinian rights and the lack of tangible progress in peace negotiations,” said Ban, who later announced in a news conference that he planned to visit Gaza on Tuesday.

“I call on all parties to come together to chart a clear course toward a just and final peace,” he told the conference, held amid tight security at a luxury hotel on the eastern outskirts of Cairo. “Going back to the status quo is not an option; this is the moment for transformational change.”

The latest conflict in Gaza was the most ruinous of three wars between Hamas and Israel since 2008, killing more than 2,000 Palestinians — mostly civilians, the U.N. says. Another 11,000 were wounded, and some 100,000 people remain homeless.

Kerry said Gazans “need our help desperately — not tomorrow, not next week, but they need it now.” He said the new U.S. money, which nearly doubles American aid to the Palestinians this year, would go to security, economic development, food and medicine, shelter and water and sanitation projects.

Abbas and the militant Hamas group, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, recently formed a national unity government which held its first Cabinet meeting in Gaza last week. But a blockade of Gaza enforced by both Egypt and Israel remains in force, causing the territory of 1.8 million people economic hardships and high unemployment.

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