Building materials are arriving in Gaza everyday
Gaza – Mohammed Habib
Gaza's Housing Minister Yusuf al-Ghariz has revealed that Israeli attacks on the strip last year caused damage amounting to $1.25bn.
Speaking to Arabstoday, al-Ghariz confirmed that the figures are based on the ministry's calculations of direct and indirect losses suffered during the war. He said, "the war completely destroyed 200 housing units; 300 units were rendered uninhabitable, and 8000 units sustained partial damage. We have given $5000 in emergency shelter aid to those who were unable to return to their homes. Work is underway on rebuilding each home destroyed by the occupation."
Al-Ghariz also confirmed that his ministry has already rebuilt 2800 housing units, out of a total of 3500 totally destroyed during the 2008-09 Israeli assault on Gaza, with work continuing on the remaining 700.
Speaking about the bringing building material into the Gaza Strip through the Israeli border crossings, the minister said that passage is a condition of the ceasefire agreement which stopped the Israeli aggression. "Getting access to these materials is of great importance to the construction sector and is separate from the restrictions of the blockade."
Al-Ghariz also discussed his recent visit to Egypt where here held talks with some of the top officials. "We discussed the entry of construction materials from Egypt into the Gaza Strip via the Rafah border crossing. The materials started arriving last week and the shipments have not stopped. We have received the base course materials necessary for paving roads. This is the first time that base course has entered the Gaza Strip in six years. The deliveries have only just started, but in the next few days will see an increase in the daily flow rate. Almost 16,000 tonnes has arrived," the minister said.
Al-Ghariz said that the delivery of building materials will allow the government to push forward with the construction process in the Gaza Strip. "There are hundreds of projects related to roads and infrastructure that have been awaiting construction materials," he added. "We have faith in God's support and then the loyalty of our brothers and all the faithful children of this nation to relieve the suffering of our people, and break the blockade and political isolation imposed on the strip."
Al-Ghariz also revealed that the United Arab Emirates donated $50m to build the Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed al-Nahyan city for released prisoners in central Gaza. The minister expressed his appreciation for the UAE's "support and solidarity," thanking "the Emirates' president, government and people" for this generous donation.
The minister confirmed that Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh will conduct a foreign tour of the countries who have supported Gaza during this tough time. Haniyeh will bear messages of thanks to "all who supported our people, especially in times of crisis and difficulty," al-Ghariz explained, adding "we will not forget the delegations that came to Gaza during the aggression."
Discussing Qatari contribution to the Gazan cause, al-Ghariz said, "the state of Qatar has given an endowment of over $400m and even sent special teams to run the construction project in Gaza." He revealed that work started in December and the first package includes 27 projects targeting inner roads throughout the Gaza Strip. Al-Ghariz added that registration for the Sheikh Hamad housing units will begin "within weeks," as "a mechanism and regulations are being set that include the conditions and criteria relating to these flats."
According to the minister, these flats will be sold at cost price in payments stretching over 20 years, putting the monthly payment between $100 to $200. The revenue, he said, will be placed in a special housing fund which will be used to build more housing units, benefiting the "largest possible section of our society."
On the ministry's action plan, al-Ghariz said, "the ministry will continue its construction programme over the course of this year. The issue will not be resolved as long as there is an occupation that constantly assaults people's homes and properties. By the end of 2013, we will have completed the reconstruction of homes which were completely destroyed in 2008 and last year."
He also said that 2013 will "see a revolution in road-building and the infrastructure, especially in light of the Qatari endowment projects and the Islamic Bank for Development's projects." He promised further development, saying, "the ministry will also continue to launch housing projects and complete the ones that have already begun, such as the al-Israa, al-Buraq and al-Beisan quarters."
The minister said that the Gaza government is the people's government, adding, "it is with your steadfastness that victory came to us and you will receive nothing from your government but loyalty. We will not abandon our responsibilities towards you. We will work to rebuild every home destroyed by the occupation."