2 Mar 2009

Donors expected to pledge billions for Gaza rebuild

8:57 pm on 2 March 2009

International donors are gathering in Egypt, where they are expected to pledge billions of dollars to rebuild Gaza after Israel's recent offensive.

Teams from 75 nations are in Sharm el-Sheikh, among them United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is expected to commit $US900 million to the fund.

Thousands of Gaza homes were destroyed or damaged during Israel's three-week operation.

However, all but essential supplies are still subject to Israeli blockades at the crossing points into Gaza.

Donors stress that aid should not be channelled through Hamas, which both the US and the European Union regard as a terrorist organisation.

About 1,300 Palestinians, including 412 children, were killed during fighting in December and January.

Israel and Palestinian group Hamas declared unilateral truces on 17 January following the Israeli offensive.

Neither Israel nor Hamas will attend the conference.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is seeking about $US2.8 billion of aid from donors during the one-day conference at Egypt's premier Red Sea resort.

He also stressed that all aid to Gaza should be channelled through his Palestinian Authority, not Hamas, which won elections in Gaza in 2006 and consolidated its control by force a year later.

Mrs Clinton is making her first visit to the Middle East as America's top diplomat.

She has already warned that the aid would depend on Palestinians' meeting the conditions of the "Quartet" of Middle East mediators - the EU, United Nations, US and Russia.