Gaza reconstruction clouded by dispute over Israelis held by Hamas

GAZA (Reuters) – Reconstruction of Gaza after last month’s fighting between Israel and Hamas is being held up by a dispute over the fate of Israelis long held by the Islamist group and a lack of clarity over how to prevent it from accessing aid funds, officials say.

The Gaza government says 2,200 homes were destroyed and 37,000 damaged by Israeli shelling during 11 days of cross-border exchanges. Rebuilding those dwellings and wider Gaza infrastructure will cost some $500 million, the government says.

Egypt and Qatar, which helped broker a May 21 truce, have pledged $500 million each for reconstruction in the Palestinian enclave, two-thirds of whose 2 million residents rely on aid.

Israel says that can proceed only if it makes headway in efforts to recover two soldiers missing in action in a 2014 Gaza war as well as two civilians who slipped separately into the enclave.

“It’s reconstruction in exchange for progress on the missing,” a senior Israeli official told Reuters, declining to specify what Israel – which has declared the two missing soldiers dead – would consider “progress”.

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