Donations to rebuild Gaza "beyond expectations"

By Richard High03 March 2009

Donors from 70 countries have pledged to donate almost US$ 4.48 billion in aid to the Palestinians, mainly to rebuild Gaza following the earlier conflict with Israel.

The donations, agreed at a conference in the Egyptian holiday resort of Sharm el-Sheikh yesterday, will be channeled through the Palestinian Authority (PA) and not Hamas, Gaza's governing party.

The PA had requested US$ 2.8 billion. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the US$ 4.48 billion was "beyond our expectations".

The US, which was represented at the conference by the new secretary of state Hillary Clinton, pledged US$ 900 million. Mrs Clinton said US$ 300 million would go to rebuilding in the Palestinian territories and US$ 600 million would be given to the PA to reorganize itself and the Palestinian economy.

The European Commission (EC) said it would donate US$ 554 million for the reconstruction of Gaza and changes to the PA, which is chaired by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.

Saudi Arabia pledged US$ 1 billion, Qatar US$ 250 million, the United Arab Emirates US$ 174 million and Algeria US$ 100 million.

Japan, Italy and Turkey also made multi-million dollar pledges to the PA.

About 1300 Palestinians, including 412 children, were killed during Israel's 22-day offensive in December and January on Gaza. Over 14000 homes, 219 factories and 240 schools were also destroyed according to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) estimates.

Israel was trying to end cross-border rocket attacks by Palestinian militants.

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