EU to pledge $556 million in Palestinian aid
The European Union's executive office said on Friday it would pledge euro436 million ($556 million) at an international donors' conference for Palestinians, including support for rebuilding Gaza.
The pledge will be presented formally on Monday in Egypt at the donors' meeting, which is to focus on gathering international aid to rebuild the Gaza Strip. Israel's three-week offensive there, which ended last month, caused widespread damage.
The executive's pledge is just part of the EU's total pledge to the Palestinians. The 27-member bloc's individual nations were expected to announce their own pledges at the conference. The EU as a whole is the largest donor to the Palestinians. It now gives some euro1 billion a year in aid.
EU officials said just over half the commission's pledge will go toward reconstruction and humanitarian efforts in Gaza. Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU's external relations commissioner, said the priority of donors including the EU was to "adequately respond to the disastrous humanitarian situation in Gaza." Aid will be targeted to what she called early recovery projects such as removal of rubble and unexploded bombs left after Israel's offensive in the Hamas-controlled territory.
The funding will also focus on a cash-for-work program and providing special care for children traumatized by the fighting, the commissioner said.
She added that the EU hoped the extra aid would lead to Israel agreeing to open more crossings into Gaza regularly and predictably, for the flow of humanitarian and commercial goods as well as people. Remaining funds will also help back the Palestinian Authority under President Mahmoud Abbas.
The European Commission gave euro440 million to support Abbas in 2008. Gaza is run by Abbas' rivals from the Islamic militant group Hamas.
The aid will be channeled through the United Nations and a special fund overseen by the World Bank to ensure reconstruction money does not end up in the hands of the Hamas.
The fund bypasses Hamas, which is listed as a terror group by the 27-nation EU and the United States and is boycotted by major international aid donors.
Abbas is to request a total of $2.8 billion for Gaza at the donors' conference.