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Meeting In Cairo, Nations Pledge $5.4 Billion To Rebuild Gaza


It has happened before. Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas locked in a violent exchange that leaves billions of dollars of damage, and international donors step in to help rebuild. It is happening again. After the latest conflict left much of the Gaza Strip in ruins, Qatar alone has pledged a billion dollars to the rebuilding effort. As NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, donors are getting tired of stepping in to pick up the pieces in a conflict that never really ends.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Capping a conference he co-hosted in Cairo, Norway's foreign minister, Borge Brende, announced $5.4 billion in pledges for the Palestinians - half of that for Gaza reconstruction, the rest to support the Palestinian Authority's budget needs.


BORGE BRENDE: This is a major breakthrough - a very important signal of solidarity to the Palestinian people in general and, not at least, to the people who are suffering so badly in Gaza.

KELEMEN: Though the Palestinians sought even more funds to rebuild tens of thousands of homes in Gaza and repair badly damaged infrastructure, they say, it's a good start. Still, one top Palestinian official, Deputy Prime Minister Mohamed Mustafa, tells NPR, there are many obstacles ahead.

MOHAMED MUSTAFA: This is not an easy task. I mean, we need to ensure that the construction material continue to flow through the borders with Israel. We need to continue to ensure that there is cease-fire - no fighting, no wars. We also want to make sure that the government will be enabled fully to implement this program on the ground.

KELEMEN: Hamas still controls much of Gaza, though the Palestinian authority is establishing a presence at some the border-crossings. And it tries the play more of a role in the rebuilding of the territory, Mustafa seems to be counting on the donors to help.

MUSTAFA: We need a lot of resources - financial resources - but we also need political support 'cause it's a regional influence into all of this.

KELEMEN: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who co-hosted the reconstruction conference, clearly wants Hamas weakened as Gaza in rebuilt.


PRESIDENT ABDEL FATTAH EL-SISI: (Foreign language spoken).

KELEMEN: The reconstruction of Gaza depends on two things, he says - a permanent cease-fire and the Palestinian Authority extending its power in the Gaza Strip. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says, he's hoping this will be the last donors' conference for Gaza and that the region can break this cycle of violence. But donors don't have any guarantees that their rebuilding projects will be safe from Israeli bombardment as long as Hamas threatens Israel with rocket fire or digs more tunnels. Secretary of State John Kerry says, if Gaza is to be rebuilt, there must be changes on the ground.


U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: Even the most durable of cease-fires is not a substitute for real security for Israel or a state and dignity for the Palestinians.

KELEMEN: The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that Kerry led collapsed in April. And though he says, he has a lot of other issues on the table these days, he'd still like to restart a peace process if Israeli and Palestinian leaders agree to it. Even at the donors' conference on Gaza, though, Kerry's attention was drawn elsewhere in the region as the militant group ISIS gained ground both in Iraq and in Syria, despite U.S. airstrikes.


KERRY: There will be ups and there will be down over the next days, as there are in any kind of conflict. But we are confident about our ability to pull this strategy together, given the fact that every country in the region is opposed to Daash.

KELEMEN: That's what ISIS is known as in Arabic. Kerry says, the group may be taking advantage of the difficulty nature of coordinating a coalition.


KERRY: But I'd rather have our hand than theirs for the long run, and I think there a lot of people in the region who know that.

KELEMEN: Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Cairo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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