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Sheeffah Shiraz

Gaza rebuild 'will take century unless siege is lifted'

Many homes were destroyed during the 2014 war with Israel [Oxfam]

Date of publication: 27 February, 2015

See the album, Gazans living among rubble
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The Oxfam charity calls on Israel to lift blockade, saying Palestinian enclave will not recover from war damage for 100 years at current rate of reconstruction.

Rebuilding Gaza could take a century to complete unless the Israeli blockade is lifted, the Oxfam charity has said, as new figures showed the amount of vital construction materials entering the enclave dropped last month.

The Palestinian enclave suffered massive damage in Israel's 51-day war on Hamas last summer.

More than 2,500 Palestinians were killed and 100,000 people homeless as thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged.

Oxfam said more than 800,000 lorry-loads of construction materials were required to rebuild all homes, schools and hospitals damaged in the war.

However, less than 0.25 percent of that figure had entered in the past three months. That means it would take one year at current rates to rebuild one percent, and 100 years to rebuild 100 percent.

In December 2014, 795 trucks entered Gaza, the figure then dropped to 579 the following month, Oxfam said.

"Only an end to the blockade of Gaza will ensure that people can rebuild their lives," said Oxfam's regional director, Catherine Essoyan. "Every day that people are unable to build is putting more lives at risk".

International donors pledged $5.4 billion for Gaza reconstruction during a conference in Cairo last October.

But according to Chris Gunnes, the spokesman for UNRWA agency for Palestinian refugees, only five percent of the donations have reached Gaza.

"This is as bad as it's ever been," Gunnes said. "After the Cairo conference, we created a plan for $720 million in aid essentially for two things: rental properties for people whose houses had been destroyed, and for repair and reconstruction."

He said the depth of suffering and breadth of the humanitarian impact was "immense".

"I met a 62-year-old grandfather living in the northern area, near the fence with Israel on Thursday," Gunnes said.

"He had lost two of his grandchildren in January to hypothermia. There were 15 family members living in a shack; a tiny, three-room wooden structure covered in leaky plastic, with rain water flowing in."

Oxfam's Essoyan added that many families live in homes without roofs, walls, windows or running water, with some receiving only six hours of electricity a day.

"It is utterly deplorable that the international community is once again failing the people of Gaza when they need it most," Essoyan said.

Israel has blockaded and launched three wars in the enclave since Hamas won power in free elections in 2006.

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