Envoys from countries around the world have gathered in the Egyptian capital to discuss raising money to reconstruct Gaza after its recent war with Israel. Costs will run into the billions.
Egyptian leader Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on Sunday opened a one-day donors' conference in Cairo that will aim to raise the billions of dollars needed to rebuild the Gaza Strip after a devastating 50-day war with Israel this summer.
The conference brings together foreign ministers and senior officials from some 50 countries, including United States Secretary of State John Kerry. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is also attending.
"I call on the Israeli people and the government: now is the time to end the conflict," al-Sissi said in his opening remarks, saying "permanent calm" between Hamas and Israel was needed for the reconstruction. Egypt was behind an August 26 cease-fire that ended the summer conflict - but not before it had killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 73 people on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers.
The Palestinian Authority has estimated the cost of reconstruction at $4 billion (3.2 billion euros). It also says it will require $4.5 billion to keep the enclave running up to 2017.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, is asking for $1.6 billion in donations to maintain its emergency support for the estimated 100,000 people made homeless by the conflict.
Germany on Sunday announced it would contribute $63 million to reconstruction efforts in Gaza. “We can’t allow the people in Gaza to sink into despair,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement.
Ahead of the conference, the agency's spokesman, Chris Gunness, called the amount "unprecedented" in UNRWA's 64-year history, saying it reflected "the massive scale of destruction and the profound level of need the beleaguered people of Gaza are experiencing today."
The war in July and August was the third - and worst - of the conflicts that have been fought between the Islamist group Hamas and Israel since 2008. The main issues fueling the violence remain unresolved, with Israel insisting on complete disarmament of the Palestinian territory, while Hamas - the dominant force in Gaza - has demanded the full lifting of an Israeli blockade on the enclave.
Observers say the remaining tensions between the two sides are likely to lead to a certain wariness on the part of possible donors at Sunday's conference, amid fears that violence could flare again some time in the near future.
Egyptian-led indirect peace talks aimed at establishing a permanent truce began on September 23, but are to resume only after the Jewish and Muslim holidays.
tj/jm (dpa, AFP, AP)