A year after Israel launched its Operation Cast Lead military offensive on Gaza, on 27 December 2008, little of the extensive damage it caused to homes, civilian infrastructure, public services, farms and businesses has been repaired. As thousands of families still come to terms with loss or injury of their loved ones, they are being prevented from rebuilding their shattered society.
This is not for a lack of determination by the people of Gaza or of resources committed to do the job. Indeed, over US$4 billion was pledged in March 2009 by the international community to assist reconstruction in Gaza and to support the Palestinian economy. Gaza's jobless people are only too ready to put their skills and work into rebuilding their wrecked homes or getting the shattered water, sewage and electricity systems working again. Crossing points into Gaza from Israel have been designed and tested and security procedures developed that could facilitate the large-scale entry of the materials needed for reconstruction. But little of this committed money has been spent. Goods and equipment earmarked for rebuilding languish in storage outside Gaza. And much of Gaza still lies in ruins.
This is not an accident; it is a matter of policy. The Israeli government's blockade, imposed in 2007 after Hamas took control of Gaza (though long preceded by regular closures and restrictions), not only forbids most Gazans from leaving or exporting anything to the outside world, but also only permits the import of a narrowly-restricted number of basic humanitarian goods. Desperately-needed reconstruction materials are not counted amongst these. So the civilian population and the United Nations and aid agencies that aim to help them are prohibited from importing materials like cement or glass for reconstruction in all but a handful of cases.
Indeed, since Operation Cast Lead, only 41 truckloads of construction materials for all purposes have been permitted into Gaza. Thousands of truckloads are required to rebuild all the houses destroyed. And this is to say nothing of all the remaining reconstruction desperately needed to put right damage to all the schools, hospitals, other buildings and water network because of previous military action or serious dilapidation caused by lack of repair materials due to the blockade. The rest of this paper sets out other evidence of the blockade's continuing and devastating impact, based on the experience of the authoring agencies and data from the UN.