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US says Israel must play role in rebuilding Gaza

US urges Israel to play a role in reconstruction of Gaza ahead of the donor conference in Cairo this Sunday
Palestinian boys walk past buildings destroyed by Israeli strikes on their way to school in Shejaiya, Gaza (AFP)
A top US official said on Wednesday, that Israel must play a role in the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. This was said ahead of the key donor talks due to take place in Cairo this weekend. The US is also pressing all sides to agree a lasting ceasefire.
US Secretary of State John Kerry will attend Sunday's reconstruction conference being co-hosted in Cairo by Egypt and Norway and billed by the US as a "major humanitarian assistance and reconstruction effort" after the devastating 50-day war between Israel and Hamas.
The Palestinian government has unveiled a 76-page reconstruction plan for Gaza, calling for $4bn to rebuild the war-battered territory, with the largest amount going to build housing for some 100,000 left homeless.
The Israeli military operation in the impoverished Gaza Strip killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, while attacks by Gaza militants killed 73 on the Israeli side.
The war ended in August with a temporary ceasefire, and indirect negotiations for a permanent truce are due to resume under Egyptian mediation later this month.
Washington has already pledged some $118 million to help the Palestinians in Gaza and Psaki said she expected "there are a range of countries in the international community who are going to be contributing" funds at the Cairo talks.
"We do think that Israel will need to play a role in Gaza reconstruction," Psaki stressed, questioned about whether the Jewish state had a responsibility to help repair the damage it inflicted.
"We were pleased to see that the UN, Israel and the Palestinian Authority agreed on procedures aimed at expediting the passage of relief materials into Gaza, while taking into account Israel’s security needs," Psaki told reporters.
But she would not be drawn on whether US aid should be contingent on guarantees of a lasting ceasefire to ensure the money was not wasted in any future fighting.
"Ideally we’d like to see an agreement on a way forward for a sustainable ceasefire that addresses the long-term issues so we don’t have the recurring conflict," Psaki said.
Kerry would likely have talks on the sidelines on the issue, "but it’s not the primary focus. They’ll have to reconvene the parties to have that discussion separately from this conference," she added.

Israel to ease some restrictions on Gaza

Israel will also begin easing restrictions on the entry of individuals and goods into the Gaza Strip within days, the Palestinian minister of civil affairs said Thursday.
"Israel will begin to facilitate the movement of Gazans to the West Bank and allow the entry of used cars for resale in Gaza," Hussein al-Sheikh told Anadolu Agency by phone.
"It will also grant work permits to a number of Gazans to allow them to do construction and carpentry work in Israel," he added.
"The decision will be evaluated later for the possibility of having more work permits granted in the future," al-Sheikh said.
Gazans have been banned from working in Israel since 2007, when Palestinian resistance faction Hamas assumed control of the blockaded coastal enclave.
Al-Sheikh said the agreement reached with Israel also called for the latter to allow the export of goods "in large quantities" from the Gaza Strip to the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
He went on to say that Palestinian representatives had urged their Israeli counterparts to open all of Israel's border crossings with the embattled Gaza Strip.
The unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip – which is home to some 1.8 million Palestinians – jumped from 35 percent to a 50 percent following Israel's recent military onslaught on the coastal territory, according to figures released by the Palestinian government.

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