The New York Times reports: On Sunday, more than 235,000 people were still crammed into 81 of the United Nations’ 156 schools, where classes are supposed to start next Sunday. “The chances of that,” acknowledged Scott Anderson, deputy director of the agency that runs them, “are zero.”
After a month of fierce fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants that killed more than 1,900 Gaza residents, the extension of a temporary cease-fire through Monday was a great relief. But with an estimated 11,000 homes destroyed and many more severely damaged, Gaza’s housing and humanitarian crises are just beginning, and the uncertainty over the timing and terms for a more durable truce makes recovery planning elusive.
“Our fate at the end will be in the street,” lamented Alia Kamal Elaf, a 35-year-old mother of eight who has been staying at a school since fleeing the Shejaiya neighborhood in east Gaza City at the onset of Israel’s ground incursion on July 17.
The destruction has been far more severe than in previous rounds of Israeli attacks, especially in Shejaiya, the northern border town of Beit Hanoun and the southeastern village of Khuza’a, where little at all is left. Palestinian leaders plan to ask international donors for $6 billion at a conference scheduled for September, but there are many challenges money cannot solve.
The Hamas-run government that ruled Gaza since 2007 resigned in June, but the Palestinian Authority has yet to take control of its ministries. So who will assess damage or coordinate reconstruction?
Israel currently bans the import of construction materials for private projects, citing security concerns. In any case, several of Gaza’s cement-mixing plants and other factories that make doors, windows and floor tiles have been reduced to rubble.
Many aid workers think cash grants would provide the most efficient relief: People could fix homes that are still standing, rent new spaces or offset expenses as they cram in with relatives. But the United States will not give cash directly to people because it is too complicated to determine their possible connections with Hamas, which is deemed a terrorist organization by Washington.
“We’ll get lots of money to rebuild homes we can’t rebuild, but we won’t get the money to help these people help themselves,” said Robert Turner, director of Gaza operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which provides education, health and other services to the 70 percent of Gaza residents who are classified as refugees. “You cannot do widespread shelter construction unless construction material is free and available in the local market. Which it’s not, and is it ever going to be?” [Continue reading…]