A UN envoy has said that Israelis and Palestinians have agreed on a reconstruction plan for the Gaza Strip after seven weeks of bombardment. Israel, meanwhile, said that a mortar shell from Gaza hit its territory.
The UN envoy for the Middle East, Robert Serry, told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that a deal had been reached on delivering construction materials to the Gaza Strip. Israel had voiced concerns that materials like concrete might be used by Hamas not to rebuild homes, but rather the tunnels destroyed by the Israeli military during the seven-week war.
The deal will "enable work at the scale required in the strip, involving the private sector in Gaza and giving a lead role to the Palestinian Authority in the reconstruction efforts," Serry told the Security Council.
Israel only allows the flow of consumer goods to the blockaded enclave, strictly controlling the supply of building materials that could be put to military use. Serry said the UN was "providing security assurances through UN monitoring that these materials will not be diverted from their entirely civilian purpose."
The Palestinian Authority estimates the material damage from 50 days of Israeli airstrikes at $7.8 billion (6 billion euros). More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, died in the conflict, along with 66 Israeli soldiers and six civilians inside Israel.
Serry said that he had witnessed "truly shocking levels of destruction to infrastructure, hospitals and schools" during his visit to Gaza last week. He said that an estimated 18,000 houses were destroyed or severely damaged, that around 100,000 had fled their homes, and that 111 UN facilities were damaged during the Israeli airstrikes.
"The Gaza conflict is an appalling human tragedy, and has also exacted a terrible cost in already strained trust," Serry said. "While the ceasefire brokered by Egypt has largely held since August 16, it remains worryingly fragile with the underlying dynamics still unaddressed."
Israel reports 'mortar fire,' no damage
The Israeli army on Tuesday said that a mortar shell from Gaza had landed on its territory for the first time since the ceasefire deal.
"For the first time since Operation Protective Edge, a mortar shell fired from Gaza hit southern Israel," Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said on Twitter, using the military's codename for the summer conflict. "No damage or injuries reported."
No armed faction in Gaza immediately claimed the attack, while a Hamas spokesman questioned the veracity of the report.
"There is no sign a mortar bomb was fired from Gaza and Palestinian factions are committed to keeping the agreement for calm, and eager to maintain it," Hamas' Sami Abu Zuhri said. An Israeli local politician told the Haaretz newspaper that the shell might have been a stray round fired by militants in training, rather than one aimed across the border.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are due to meet in Cairo this month to work on a more formal and long-term version of the existing open-ended truce.
msh/jr (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)