Egypt returns to Gaza with post-war reconstruction

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Gaza City (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) – Posters of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi are displayed on a site in the war-torn Gaza Strip, where workers and bulldozers are busy rebuilding.

After years of hindsight, Egypt is once again making its presence felt in the neighboring Palestinian enclave, becoming a key benefactor in the aftermath of the last fight between Hamas and Israel in May.

In the weeks following the deadly violence, a number of Egyptian workers crossed the border on a mission to establish a coastal road in the town of Beit Lahya, in northern Gaza.

“The president’s instructions are to rebuild the Gaza Strip. We are about 70 engineers, civil servants, truck drivers, mechanics and workers,” said one worker who preferred not to give his name.

He added that he was “happy to help Palestine”.

During the 11-day conflict that erupted between Israel and armed Islamist factions in Gaza last May – the worst since 2014 – Egypt worked behind the scenes to negotiate a ceasefire.

Cairo has also pledged a $ 500 million package to rebuild the enclave bordering Israel and Egypt.

‘Common interest’

Relations between Cairo and Hamas – an offshoot of the veteran Islamist opposition group of the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt – have been austere, particularly after the 2013 military ousting of the late President Mohamed Morsi, also of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The sight of Egyptian workers rebuilding Gaza as Egypt invests millions in the enclave was “unexpected, unimaginable,” Palestinian economist Omar Shaban said.

Egypt has worked behind the scenes to negotiate a ceasefire in the 11-day conflict between Israel and armed Islamist factions that has devastated the Gaza Strip and has pledged a $ 500 million package to rebuild it. impoverished coastal enclave MOHAMMED ABED AFP

“Egypt and Hamas are not friends, but they have common interests,” he explained in his office in Al-Rimal, a district in Gaza which was heavily bombed by Israel in May.

“Egypt wants to maintain the ceasefire by engaging in post-war reconstruction efforts.”

Hamas is in desperate need of international reconstruction assistance, while a positive relationship with Egypt is an added advantage as it controls the Rafah border, often the only point of access for essential construction materials. ‘enclave.

Egypt, meanwhile, “understands it doesn’t have many options” in Gaza, where Hamas – nearly 15 years after seizing power from Fatah and despite four wars with Israel – still holds its ground. , Shaban said.

Qatar versus Egypt?

In recent years, Qatar has emerged as the main donor of aid for the impoverished territory, but following the fighting in May, the flow of money has stopped.

The energy-rich Gulf country – seen as sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots – has distributed tens of millions of dollars in aid to poor families in Gaza.

But a dispute arose over the distribution of wages to Hamas officials as Israel opposed cash payments, suggesting the Islamist movement could divert the money to its armed faction.

As Egypt has emerged as a key benefactor to Gaza after the May 2021 conflict, Qatar is the top donor of aid to impoverished Palestinian territory
As Egypt has emerged as a key benefactor to Gaza after the May 2021 conflict, Qatar is the top donor of aid to impoverished Palestinian territory MOHAMMED ABED AFP

As a result, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid urged Egypt and the United Arab Emirates – both of which have formal ties to Israel – to step in to rebuild and develop Gaza.

Hamas estimates the damage at around $ 479 million.

This is in addition to the $ 600 million that he says is needed to rebuild reconstruction efforts after previous fighting that has yet to be carried out, said Naji Sarhan, the undersecretary of the Ministry of Public Works at Gaza.

This excludes considerations for Gaza’s development needs, including electricity, water and infrastructure. The territory is considered to be one of the poorest in the region.

“Qatari assistance is welcome, as is that from Egypt … We are coordinating between countries,” said Sarhan. Doha announced on November 17 an agreement with Cairo “to provide fuel and basic building materials to the Gaza Strip.”

Ties between Egypt and Qatar deteriorated for several years – largely due to the Gulf state’s close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood – before they reconciled again earlier this year.

Sarhan added that the road being built by Egypt in the north will join one funded by Qatar, creating a corridor along the coast between northern and southern Gaza.

The road will however pass through Al-Shati refugee camp, where buildings have been reduced to rubble.

A road under construction by Egypt north of Gaza will join one funded by Qatar to create a corridor along the coast between the north and south of the enclave
A road under construction by Egypt north of Gaza will join one funded by Qatar to create a corridor along the coast between the north and south of the enclave MOHAMMED ABED AFP

“They told us that we have to leave this place, that we will have a new home,” said resident Roya al-Hassi, 83, sitting on a rocking chair.

“I’m not afraid to leave, as long as I can find a room, a bathroom, and a place to make my tea.”

Across the road, young businessman Maher al-Baqa watched the construction of his new seaside cafe.

The new seaside road “will attract the world,” he said. “But hey, it’s still Gaza, you never know when the war will resume.”


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