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GAZA: Qatar yesterday launched a $254m plan to rebuild and modernise Gaza, the biggest injection of reconstruction aid for the Palestinian enclave since it was devastated in an Israeli military offensive nearly four years ago.
Projects announced at a news conference by Qatari Ambassador Mohammed Al Amadi will require the cooperation of Israel and Egypt to admit building materials and heavy machinery to Gaza, which is under a partial blockade.
Amadi said this had been arranged. Work would begin on site within three months, starting with a highway that will run the length of the Mediterranean coastal strip.
The projects are of sufficient scale to transform Gaza and the lives of its 1.6 million people, 28 percent of whom are unemployed.
Economists said thousands of jobs would be created by local contractors who have won tenders to do the work and smaller businesses that will supply and service them.
The Hamas movement which rules Gaza welcomed the announcement as proof that Gaza had emerged from isolation. An aide to Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyah called it “the first drop of rain”.
Qatar’s envoy said politics played no role in the emirate’s aid decision, but acknowledged that the government of Gaza would ultimately benefit, in addition to the people.
“The policy of the state of Qatar is that we make the projects, we design them, we finance them, and once they are finished we hand them over to the relevant ministry,” he said. This is the policy of Qatar everywhere we act and Gaza is no exception.”
“Thanks Qatar. You have fulfilled the promise,” read a large billboard in Gaza city. “Injecting such an amount of money in development and infrastructure projects would certainly get the economic wheels moving and bring down unemployment,” said Gaza economist Maher Al Tabba.
Parts of Gaza were left in ruins in January 2009 after Israel’s three-week military offensive to stop Hamas and other Gaza militant groups firing rockets and mortars at southern Israeli communities.