Gaza Reconstruction Underway: More Than 100,000 Housing Units Been Built in the Gaza Strip

A little more than two years have passed since the start of the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) operations, and a significant change of the Gaza Strip is apparent. With tens of thousands of housing units built or renovated, and the construction of hundreds of projects is underway, what started out as cautious optimism is defined today by many as what is shaping the Gaza Strip as a whole and in particular, with the local economy.

In August 2014, UN representatives, the Palestinian Authority and the Coordinator of COGAT, Major General Yoav (Poly) Mordechai, formulated a mechanism to rehabilitate the Gaza Strip, called the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM), in which its main objective is to rebuild and improve the civilian infrastructure of the Gaza Strip, and allow the entry of construction materials under supervision. Thus, with cautious optimism, one of the most ambitious projects was launched towards the Gaza Strip of recent years to improve the current economic situation and assist the civilian population as much as possible.

The mechanism is based on three key factors: 1) the Palestinian Authority, whose role is to lead the reconstruction efforts, fundraising and resources that will enable the reconstruction of Gaza; 2) UN representatives, whose job is to oversee the construction materials and make sure these materials reach their targeted destination, to benefit the residents of Gaza and not to be exploited by Hamas terror organization; and 3) Israel, which help facilitate the reconstruction activities and coordinates the entry of construction materials and other equipment needed through Kerem Shalom Crossing.

The program has three main channels: 1) renovation of housing units damaged during Operation Protective Edge, 2) renovation of housing units that were completely destroyed, and 3) the establishment of large-scale public projects in a wide range of subjects for the welfare of the population.


Rehabilitation Numbers

Since October 2014, when the mechanism was established, more than 7 million tons of various types of construction materials entered into Gaza. As of January 2017, 102,331 damaged housing units were renovated out of a total of 130,000, according to the mapping carried out by the UN. More than 11,500 new housing units are in advanced stages of construction, while hundreds are ready for occupancy.

Thus, within 2 years, 224 projects were completed and started operations. Over 500 additional projects are currently being advanced, including the construction of hospitals and clinics, desalination facilities, soccer stadiums, community centers, mosques, schools and more.

Those who visit the Khan Younis area of the Gaza Strip will find the upscale residential neighborhood of Sheikh Hamad, whose construction is one of the key projects of the reconstruction mechanism. This neighborhood has built 54 residential buildings, 2 schools, a mosque, a kindergarten, a park and the water and sewage infrastructure, which is spread over dozens of acres, creating an advanced residential neighborhood. As part of the program to develop sport and leisure activities for the local population, the French Development Agency funded a new stadium which was built in the city of Nuseirat. This modern stadium will serve residents of the area, in addition to the stadium located in Gaza City, which has been renovated as part of the mechanism.

UN envoy to the Middle East: "Make sure that the cement is designated for civilian purposes only"

As the reconstruction work progressed, international bodies recognized attempts of exploitation by Hamas terror organization, where they attempted to steal cement trucks designated for the reconstruction mechanism. International bodies informed Israeli security officials of these activities and as a result of this, COGAT immediately instructed halts on cement entrance to the private sector, which Hamas tried to takeover.

"The message is clear - we will not allow Hamas to exploit the reconstruction work for its own military purposes," said Major General Mordechai to senior members of the international community. Only after Imad al-Baz, the Deputy Head of the Ministry of Economy of Hamas in Gaza, was ousted and the UN envoy to the Middle East, Nikolai Maldinov, pledged that the goods will be provided with enhanced supervision on merchants in the private sector, where activity gradually resumed after about 3 months. Maldinov welcomed the resumption of operations and stressed that "all parties are to ensure that cement will be used for civilian purposes only."