Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Head of ICRC Mission: Gaza Will Take Years to Rehabilitate, if at All

Inter Press Service, January 27, 2009 - IPS interviewed Katharina Ritz, head of mission of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in Ramallah. Israel's 22-day assault left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead, and decimated much of the coastal territory's infrastructure.

IPS: How long do you think it will take for Gaza to be rehabilitated?

Katharina Ritz: Gaza will take several years at the very least to recover from the Israeli military campaign. This is the best case scenario, assuming that the border crossings are opened permanently and all the necessary aid and help is allowed in unhindered.

IPS: How will the reconstruction take place, and what will this involve?

KR: There will be several stages. The initial shortages of electricity, water, food and medicine can be met, and the sewage and water systems repaired within weeks if sufficient quantities of spare parts, fuel and humanitarian aid are allowed in.

There are enough Gazans with the expertise and experience to deal with these issues.

IPS: What about repairing the damaged infrastructure?

KR: Rebuilding all the damaged and destroyed homes will obviously take several months, assuming the Israelis permit the importation of the necessary construction material, which they prevented from entering the territory even before the military operation.

But before the reconstruction can even commence it is essential for the remaining Israeli ordnances left over from the war to be cleared away to ensure the safety of the population.

IPS: The economy too is in dire straits. Was this problematic even before the Israeli operation?

KR: Yes, the next stage will require the rehabilitation of the crippled economy, and this could take several years.

Prior to the Israeli assault, the economy was barely functioning. To operate even on a basic level again, substantial investment and rehabilitation of the agricultural and private sectors is imperative.

Israel and Egypt, supported by the international community, enforced an economic blockade on the Gaza strip following Hamas's take-over in June 2007. Only a bare minimum of humanitarian aid has been allowed in sporadically since then.

IPS: What is the final step to the coastal territory's rehabilitation?

KR: The final question which will have to be addressed in the long term is the psychological scars, and the trauma which the civilian population has been subjected to....

Full interview available at the link.

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