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Egypt makes Gaza comeback with post-war reconstruction

This image taken on October 30, 2021 reveals an aerial view of vans carrying Egyptian license plates and excavators clearing land for highway expansions a web site north of Gaza Metropolis. AFP

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories — Posters of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi beam out over a web site within the war-battered Gaza Strip the place laborers and bulldozers are arduous at work rebuilding.

After years of retreat, Egypt is making its presence felt again within the neighbouring Palestinian enclave, rising as a key benefactor within the aftermath of the final bout of combating between Hamas and Israel in Might.

Within the weeks following the lethal violence, various Egyptian staff crossed the border on a mission to put down a coastal highway within the Gaza’s northern metropolis of Beit Lahya.

“The president’s directions are to reconstruct the Gaza Strip. We’re about 70 engineers, civil servants, lorry drivers, mechanics and staff,” mentioned a employee who most well-liked to not give his identify.

He added that he was “joyful to assist Palestine”.

In the course of the 11-day battle that erupted between Israel and armed Islamist factions in Gaza final Might — the worst since 2014 — Egypt labored behind the scenes to mediate a ceasefire.

Cairo additionally pledged a $500 million bundle to reconstruct the enclave which borders Israel and Egypt.

‘Frequent pursuits’

Relations between Cairo and Hamas — an offshoot of Egypt’s veteran Islamist opposition Muslim Brotherhood group — have been bitter, notably after the 2013 army ouster of late president Mohamed Morsi, additionally of the Brotherhood.

The sight of Egyptian staff rebuilding Gaza as Egypt invests tens of millions within the enclave was “sudden, unimaginable”, Palestinian economist Omar Shaban mentioned.

“Egypt and Hamas are usually not associates, however they’ve frequent pursuits,” he defined in his workplace in Al-Rimal, a Gaza district that was closely bombarded by Israel in Might.

“Egypt desires to take care of the ceasefire by participating within the after-war reconstruction efforts.”

Hamas is in determined want of worldwide help for reconstruction, whereas constructive relations with Egypt are an additional advantage because it controls the Rafah border, typically the one entry level for much-needed building materials to the enclave.

Egypt, in the meantime, “understands that it doesn’t have numerous choices” in Gaza, the place Hamas — practically 15 years after seizing energy from the Fatah motion and regardless of 4 wars with Israel —  nonetheless holds agency, Shaban mentioned.

Qatar vs Egypt?

Over current years, Qatar has develop into the prime donor of help for the impoverished territory, however within the aftermath of the Might combating, the movement of money got here to a halt.

The energy-rich Gulf nation — thought-about to be sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots — has allotted tens of tens of millions of {dollars} in help to poor households in Gaza.

However a dispute arose over the distribution of salaries to Hamas officers as Israel objected to money funds, suggesting that the Islamist motion might divert the cash to its armed faction.

Israeli International Minister Yair Lapid because of this urged Egypt and the United Arab Emirates — each of which have formal ties with Israel — to step in to reconstruct and develop Gaza.

Hamas estimates the injury at about $479 million.

This comes on high of $600 million it says is required for rebuilding efforts after earlier fight which have but to be realised, mentioned Naji Sarhan, the undersecretary of the Ministry of Public Works in Gaza.

That is excluding issues for the event wants of Gaza, together with electrical energy, water and infrastructure. The territory is taken into account one of the vital impoverished within the area.

“The Qatari help is welcome and so is that of Egypt… We’re coordinating between the nations,” Sarhan mentioned. Doha introduced on November seventeenth an settlement with Cairo “to produce gasoline and primary constructing supplies for the Gaza Strip”.

Ties between Egypt and Qatar soured for a number of years — largely because of the Gulf state’s shut ties with the Brotherhood — earlier than they reconciled once more earlier this yr.

Sarhan added that the highway being constructed by Egypt within the north will be a part of with one other funded by Qatar, making a hall alongside the coast between the north and the south of Gaza.

The highway will nonetheless reduce proper by the Al-Shati refugee camp, the place the buildings have been diminished to rubble.

“They instructed us that we should go away this place, that we are going to have a brand new dwelling,” mentioned one resident, Roya al-Hassi, 83, seated on a rocking chair.

“I’m not fearful about leaving, as long as I can discover a room, a rest room and a spot to make my tea.”

On the opposite facet of the highway, younger businessman Maher al-Baqa appeared out on the building of his new cafe on the seafront.

The brand new seaside highway “will appeal to the world”, he rejoiced. “However hey, it’s nonetheless Gaza, you by no means know when the conflict will restart.”

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