RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — The deputy Palestinian prime minister said Tuesday that international donors are hesitant to fund the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip so long as Hamas remains in control there and the specter of future wars looms.
Mohammed Mustafa, a top official in the West Bank Palestinian Authority, said international bodies are eager for President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah forces to take on a leading role in Gaza in the wake of a 50-day war between Israel and Hamas that killed more than 2,000 people.
With Hamas still committed to Israel's destruction and with an arsenal of rockets still at its disposal, the donors are wary of rebuilding, Mustafa said. This summer's war was the third in less than six years.
"Some donors say why sponsor Israeli wars in Gaza every two years," Mustafa said. "Some donor countries are concerned because of the atmosphere on the ground ... because the reconstruction is not possible without enabling the (Palestinian) government to take the lead in all aspect of life in Gaza."
Mustafa said despite the obstacles, the Palestinian Authority had launched a relief plan for Gaza and will call for a donor conference in Egypt next month. Egypt announced late Tuesday the conference, co-sponsored by Norway, would be held Oct. 12.
In Washington, Maen Areikat, ambassador and chief representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization delegation to the U.S., said that while donors are nervous, the Palestinian Authority has received indications that many are willing to contribute to a massive reconstruction effort. "I think Hamas understands that everything is going to be channeled through the Palestinian Authority. They are not arguing with that."
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Mustafa and U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator James Rawley released a new appeal Tuesday for $551 million for emergency aid in Gaza, up from the $367 million requested in Aug. 1.
He said the assistance is needed for food and basic supplies, expanding access to health, water and education, protection of the population and psycho-social support. He said the aid will be provided through the government, U.N. agencies and international and local aid groups.
Dujarric said Rawley stressed that the appeal is not a solution and called for fundamental changes including a continued cease-fire, the full lifting of the blockade and a political solution.
Meanwhile, in Gaza, the Israeli navy arrested four Palestinian fishermen and seized their boat Tuesday, a Gaza official said, in one of the first instances of friction between the sides since the Gaza war ended last month.
The incident occurred off the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, said Nizar Ayyash of the Gaza Fishermen's Union. He provided no additional details.
The Israeli military said two vessels were involved in the incident. It said the vessels were operating outside of their permitted maritime limit, and after ignoring requests to move closer to shore, were boarded by naval personnel and seized.
Israel and Hamas-led militants in Gaza ended 50 days of intensive fighting on Aug. 26 and committed to enter into indirect truce talks in Cairo aimed at developing a sustainable roadmap for the future of the densely-populated coastal territory.
As part of the cease-fire deal that halted the fighting, Israel doubled the maritime area in which Gaza fishermen are permitted to operate from five to nine kilometers (three to six miles).
Associated Press writers Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and Deb Riechmann in Washington contributed to this report.