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Qatar starts project to rebuild 1,000 homes hit by war in Gaza Strip

For the first time since Israel's military offensive in Gaza last summer, building supplies for Qatar projects enter the blockaded enclave
A boy loads rubble onto a donkey-cart in the Shujaiyya neighbourhood, Gaza, on 28 February, 2015 (AA)

Qatar on Tuesday launched a project to build 1,000 homes in the Gaza Strip to house Palestinians displaced by last summer's Israeli military offensive.

The Gulf state, which hosts the exiled leadership of Hamas, was the largest donor at an October conference in Cairo to raise funds to help rebuild the blockaded territory and prop up the Palestinian Authority, perpetually in budget trouble.

"Qatar made a pledge at the donors' conference. Today we are putting that into effect, by beginning construction of 1,000 housing units," the head of the Qatari project, Mohammed al-Emadi, said at a news conference in Gaza City.

Qatar pledged $1 billion at the conference, almost a fifth of the total $5.4 billion promised in international aid.

Palestinian officials have complained for months that few donors have fulfilled their pledges, stalling reconstruction, amid continuing conflict between the government and Hamas, the Islamist faction that dominates Gaza.

The construction materials needed for the project would be allowed through the strip's Israeli-controlled border crossings, said al-Emadi.

Four shipments of building materials have entered the blockaded enclave on Tuesday thanks to the efforts made by the Palestinian government to coordinate with the Israeli authorities, al-Emadi said.

"This is the first time since the latest Israeli onslaught on Gaza that building supplies for Qatar projects have entered the Strip," he added.

Qatar signed a trilateral agreement with Egypt and Gaza in 2013 to fund housing and infrastructure projects in Gaza worth a total of $500 million.

Last November, Israeli authorities allowed Qatari-funded construction supplies to enter the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing.

The move came after Egypt sealed the Rafah border with Gaza following the overthrow of elected president Mohamed Morsi by the army in mid-2013.

Last year's offensive in July and August killed about 2,200 Palestinians – mainly civilians - and also left 100,000 homeless, according to the United Nations.

The UN last month slammed the international community for failing to make good on its promises of aid, warning of another conflict unless Gaza was rehabilitated quickly.

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