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$5.4b pledged to Gaza Strip after Israel-Hamas war

The shell of a home and its owners were cast against a sunset recently in a neighborhood in the east of Gaza City.  Many buildings were destroyed in the recent conflict with Israel.
The shell of a home and its owners were cast against a sunset recently in a neighborhood in the east of Gaza City. Many buildings were destroyed in the recent conflict with Israel.(EPA/MOHAMMED SABER)

CAIRO — A donor conference in Cairo to raise money for Gaza after this year’s war between Hamas and Israel ended with pledges of $5.4 billion, half of which will be ‘‘dedicated’’ to the reconstruction of the coastal strip, Norway’s foreign minister said Sunday.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende offered the figure at the end of Sunday’s one-day conference, far beyond the $4 billion initially sought by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Brende did not say what the other half of the funds would be spent on, but other delegates have spoken of boosting economic activity, emergency relief, and other projects needed in the war-ravaged territory.

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“The message was clear to the international community that the Palestinian brothers are not alone,’’ Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri said.

Qatar pledged $1 billion toward the reconstruction, once again using its vast wealth to reinforce its role as a regional player as Gulf Arab rival the United Arab Emirates promised $200 million.

Secretary of State John Kerry earlier announced immediate American assistance of $212 million. The European Union pledged $568 million. Turkey, which has been playing a growing role in the Middle East in recent years, said it was donating $200 million.

Delegates representing some 50 nations and 20 regional and international groups applauded the pledge by Qatar, a tiny but energy-rich nation at odds with its larger neighbors, including the Emirates.

The Emirates, along with regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia, alleges that Qatar uses its massive wealth to undermine regional stability, primarily through meddling in other nations’ affairs and aiding such militant groups as Gaza’s Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, the Arab world’s oldest Islamist group with branches across much of the region.

Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah, in announcing his country’s pledge, denounced the ‘‘international silence’’ that surrounded Gaza’s destruction.

‘‘While the Palestinian people need financial support, they need more political support from the international community,’’ he said. ‘‘A just peace is the only real guarantee for not destroying what we are about to rebuild and reconstruct.’’

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Organizers of the Cairo conference hope the pledges will be paid over the period of three years to aid reconstruction in the Gaza Strip, which borders Israel and Egypt. Both countries have blockaded Gaza since Hamas took power there in 2007, causing the territory of 1.8 million people economic hardships and high unemployment.

Donors plan to funnel the aid through Abbas’s Palestinian Authority and bypass Hamas. Abbas and Hamas recently formed a national unity government that held its first Cabinet meeting in Gaza last week.

The Western-backed Abbas, speaking to delegates, said the latest Gaza war caused ‘‘tragedies that are difficult to be described by words. . . . Entire neighborhoods have been reduced to rubble.’’ The 50-day war was the third between Hamas and Israel since 2008.

‘‘The [Palestinian] government will carry out the reconstruction plan with full responsibility and transparency in coordination with the UN, the donors, international financial institutions, civil society, and the private sector,’’ he said.

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 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who later announced in a news conference that he planned to visit Gaza on Tuesday.

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‘‘Going back to the status quo is not an option,’’ Ban said.

The latest conflict in Gaza was the most ruinous of three wars, killing more than 2,000 Palestinians — mostly civilians, the United Nations says. Another 11,000 were wounded, and some 100,000 remain homeless.

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