A huge picture of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi rises in a street in Gaza, embodying Cairo’s determination to restore its political role in the besieged Palestinian sector, through the gate of reconstruction after the recent war between Israel and Palestinian resistance factions.
Weeks after the end of the war last May, Cairo sent Egyptian workers and technicians to the Palestinian sector to build a main street on the sea coast west of Gaza City, and two residential neighborhoods in the north and center of the Strip, which is ruled by the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas).
A 30-year-old Egyptian worker participating in the workshop – preferring not to be named – says that he came to Gaza with about 70 engineers, workers and truck drivers, adding, “I am happy to help our brothers in Palestine. The president’s instructions are to rebuild the Gaza Strip.”
A 26-year-old truck driver said, “The first project we complete is the Corniche Street,” noting that “the Egyptian grant also includes the establishment of two residential cities: the first is in Beit Hanoun (north), and the other is in Madinat al-Zahra” near the seashore.
During the war, Cairo played a major role in mediating between Israel and the resistance factions – led by Hamas – to reach a ceasefire, and announced support for the reconstruction projects of the Strip with a financial grant of $500 million.
The 11-day confrontations resulted in the killing of 260 Palestinians, including 66 children and a number of fighters, and 13 people on the Israeli side, including a soldier, according to sources on both sides. About 1,500 homes were completely destroyed, and about 60,000 Palestinian homes in the Strip were partially damaged.
back after backtrack
The Egyptian role in the Gaza Strip declined after Sisi ousted the late President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, who belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood, close to Hamas.
Economist Omar Shaaban says that the Egyptian president’s political vision depends on investing millions of dollars in the Gaza Strip, explaining that “watching Egyptian workers in Gaza was unexpected and unimaginable.”
He states that “Egypt and Hamas are not friends, but they have common interests,” adding that “Cairo wants to continue supervising the ceasefire agreement by engaging in reconstruction.”
In order to rebuild the infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, Hamas needs foreign aid, which requires it to maintain good relations with the Egyptian state with which it has borders from the south, and the Rafah crossing with Egypt is the only outlet to the outside world that is not controlled by Israel. , unlike other ports.
At the same time, Shaaban believes that Egypt “realizes that it does not have many options in Gaza, as Hamas is still ruling the Strip after 4 wars with Israel and about 15 years of siege.”
Israel tightened its land, sea and air blockade on the Gaza Strip after Hamas took control of it in the summer of 2007. The strip is a narrow coastal strip overcrowded with people, about half of whom live below the poverty line.
Since the rise of Hamas to power, Qatar has emerged as the largest donor to the Strip. However, after the end of the last war, the distribution of humanitarian financial aid provided by Qatar witnessed a halt for 3 months due to discussions on the mechanism for the entry of funds into the Strip.
Last month, Qatar succeeded in disbursing $10 million to about 100,000 poor families in the Gaza Strip, after Israel agreed to a new distribution mechanism under the supervision of the United Nations.
Before the last military confrontation in May, the transfer of Qatari funds to Gaza was carried out in cash through the Beit Hanoun (Ebriz) crossing, but a dispute still exists with Israel over the payment of salaries to Hamas government employees, as Israel opposes paying cash for fear that the money will reach the factions armed Palestinian, she said.
Recently, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid urged the countries of Egypt and the UAE, which have official relations with Israel, to engage in the process of rebuilding and developing the Gaza Strip.
All help is welcome
The Hamas government estimates the direct losses of the last Israeli war at about 479 million dollars, in addition to about 600 million dollars in losses in the past wars, according to the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Housing and Public Works in Gaza, Naji Sarhan.
These estimates exclude the costs of solving the electricity and water crisis and repairing infrastructure, according to Sarhan, who believes that “help from Qatar is welcome as well as from Egypt, we are coordinating between countries.”
The Egyptian support for the construction of the coastal road (the Corniche) comes as a continuation of a main road that aims to connect the northern and southern Gaza Strip. Qatar has built part of it on the coast of Gaza City, knowing that the road financed by Egypt requires the removal of dozens of homes in the Shati refugee camp, west of Gaza City.
“They told us that we would have to leave, and that we would get a new house,” says Roya Al-Hassi, 83, who is sitting in a rocking chair inside her house, which is on the demolition list in the project implementation plan.
And she continues, “I don’t mind leaving, as long as I find a bedroom, a bathroom and a kitchen.”
On the other side of the narrow road, businessman Maher El-Baqah is supervising the construction of a large café on the beach. “The new corniche will attract a lot of customers,” he says, but he adds – with a smile – “But hey, it’s Gaza! A new war is breaking out!”