Switzerland is contributing CHF120 million ($125 million) to the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip but is demanding guarantees from Hamas on the Palestinian side as well as from Israel.
Manuel Bessler, delegate for humanitarian aid and head of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unitexternal link, said in East Jerusalem on Tuesday that Switzerland had already granted in July CHF4.25 million in emergency aid to the region of Palestine on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
“But humanitarian aid will never replace the political process,” he stressed.
He added that he was keeping a close eye on the destruction caused by Israel’s retaliatory shelling in the north of Gaza, expressing incomprehension why the Israeli air force, while looking for Hamas rocket launch pads, had also destroyed important infrastructure facilities such as water reservoirs and electricity stations.
Having visited northern Gaza to examine the damage, he described the atmosphere there as “heavy”.
An Egyptian-brokered ceasefire in late August ended a 50-day war in the Gaza Strip between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas which controls Gaza. Israel had begun an offensive on July 8 with the aim of halting cross-border rocket salvoes by Hamas and other militants.
The conflict devastated some Gaza districts and killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, according to the Gaza health ministry; 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel were also killed.
The Palestinian authorities have put the cost of rebuilding the Gaza Strip, densely populated by some two million people, at $7.8 billion (CHF7.5 billion).
On September 17, Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, described the levels of destruction to infrastructure, hospitals and schools in Gaza as “shocking”.
He said the devastation unleashed by this most recent round of conflict had left civilians on both sides feeling, once again, “battered and embittered”.
Serry noted that it would not be easy to revive a political process, but stressed that fresh thinking was urgently needed to break out of current dynamics and preserve the possibility of the two-state solution.
swissinfo.ch and agencies