Two-and-a-half months have passed since the end of Israel’s brutal Operation Protective Edge. During the operation, thousands of residents of the Gaza Strip took shelter in United Nations sponsored (UNRWA) schools. Many have since returned to their homes, and others, whose homes were destroyed, have been put up by family and friends. However, 18 UNRWA schools still provide shelter to more than 30,000 residents of the Gaza Strip who have no home or other temporary solution. There they await the promised reconstruction of Gaza while living in classrooms which have been modified into small one-room apartments.
Despite the approaching winter and repeated international promises to fund an intensive reconstruction effort for the thousands of damaged homes and other buildings throughout the Gaza Strip, the reconstruction mechanism meant to facilitate the entrance of construction materials into the Gaza Strip has still not been finalized. In September and October, 33,465 tons of construction materials entered Gaza for use by international organizations. Compared to this relatively inadequate amount (see below), the 2,516 tons of materials designated for private use which entered the area in October constitute a mere drop in the bucket which, even worse, are distributed via a long, tedious process that benefits only few whose homes require relatively minor repairs, not extensive rebuilding. Many people in Gaza who meet the criteria defined by the reconstruction mechanism have still not received any building materials whatsoever, and for those whose homes were completely destroyed or badly damaged there is no solution.
According to the Gisha – Legal Center for the Freedom of Movement, an Israeli NGO: “For the sake of comparison, in the first half of 2013, roughly 420,000 tons of construction materials entered Gaza via Kerem Shalom, the tunnels, and Rafah Crossing (for Qatar funded projects) every month. This amount of construction materials, more than 11 times the amount that entered over the last two months, was being used to meet the routine needs of a population of more than 1.7 million and even that amount didn’t come close to meeting the need. Today, after Operation Protective Edge, the need for construction materials in the Gaza Strip is on an entirely different scale.”