Israeli offensive cost Gaza billions: Palestinian official

Gaza: Israel’s nearly two-month military campaign against the Gaza Strip has cost the coastal enclave an estimated six to eight billion dollars, a senior Palestinian official said Monday.

After over 40 days of an Israeli war and blockade, “the territory is now a devastated area that needs unified efforts in order to reconstruct it”, Xinhua quoted Mufeed al-Hasayna, minister of housing and public works in the Palestinian unity government, as saying at a workshop held in Gaza City.

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“Within the last six years, Israel waged three wars on the Gaza Strip and kept its tight blockade imposed on it,” Hasayna said. ” This war is the toughest and longest and has caused negative consequences on the people and their living conditions.”

At the workshop, representatives of international organizations and donor countries discussed how to organise the process of reconstructing the strip, mainly resolving the problem of around 250,000 displaced Palestinians whose homes were destroyed during the war.

“Some 20,000 housing units were either completely destroyed or very badly damaged and are not fit for living in, while there are 40,000 housing units that need renovations,” Hasayna said, adding “there is an urgent need also to collect all the rubble from the destroyed houses.”

The Palestinian health ministry reported that 2,016 Palestinians were killed and over 10,000 wounded, mostly civilians, including children, women and elderly.

Egypt is currently mediating ceasefire talks in Cairo. The Palestinians are demanding a complete lifting of Israel’s blockade, imposed on the Gaza Strip after the Islamic Hamas movement’s violent takeover of the territories in 2007.

Israel has demanded that its security needs be met, saying Hamas should be completely disarmed and the Gaza Strip demilitarised.