Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has appealed to donor countries to deliver on their pledges made at a weekend conference in Cairo. Ban Ki-moon condemned continued Israeli settlement building on his visit to the region.
Rami Hamdallah appealed to international donors to send the money they pledged for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, saying that a similar fundraising drive following the 2009 conflict failed to deliver on its promises.
"Our plans are ready for the reconstruction, but it depends on the flow of the money," Hamdallah said at a meeting with visiting UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "In 2009, most of the pledged money did not come. We hope that this time is different."
International donors pledged a total of $5.4 billion (4.26 billion euros) at Sunday's donor conference in Cairo, although only half of that money is earmarked for rebuilding projects the Gaza Strip after Israeli bombardment. Other possible outlets for the aid money would include budgetary support, economic projects or emergency relief for Palestinians.
Qatar, pledging $1 billion, was the largest single donor; the European Union offered 450 million euros. Germany contributed 50 million euros, with Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier saying "we can't allow the people of Gaza to sink into despair" at the Cairo conference.
Ban: amount committed 'encouraging'
"The amount that has been committed, pledged by the international community, is quite encouraging," Ban told the news conference in Ramallah on Monday. The secretary-general said that the funds would go towards "urgently needed" reconstruction of infrastructure and homes, saying that the 50-day conflict caused an "unprecedented" level of destruction in Gaza.
Ban, due for talks with Israeli officials later on his visit, also criticized Israel's continued construction of new settler homes on territory claimed by the Palestinians. Continued settlement construction was cited, especially on the Palestinian side, as a key reason that the last US-brokered Middle East peace push collapsed shortly before the conflict.
"While rebuilding is important, we must tackle the root causes of instability," Ban said. "We must give renewed attention to the West Bank. I once again strongly condemn the continued settlement activity by Israel."
The visit also coincided with clashes between police and protesters at the sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem - a holy site for both Jews and Muslims.
Symbolic vote at Westminster
Later on Monday, British parliamentarians were scheduled to hold a non-binding vote on formally recognizing the state of Palestine. The opposition Labour party had urged its members to vote in favor, albeit prompting discontent among some of its pro-Israel backbenchers. Cabinet members were expected to abstain.
Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman said ahead of the vote that it would not change government policy, and that Cameron himself would abstain.
The UN General Assembly in 2012 overwhelmingly approved the recognition of Palestine as an "non-member observer state" - as opposed to an "entity" - granting Palestinians greater powers at the UN. The European Union and most EU countries, including Britain and Germany, have not recognized Palestine, nor has key Israeli ally the US. All have, however, repeatedly criticized settlement building as contrary to international law, and as an impediment to defining Palestinian borders and introducing a two-state solution in the region.
msh/shs (AFP, AP, Reuters)