The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Wednesday reported initial Israeli agreement to facilitate completion of two large housing projects in Gaza, Kuwaiti news agency KUNA reported.
UNRWA said its delegation received the commitment in a meeting Tuesday with the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Major-General Eitan Dangot.
UNRWA media adviser Adnan abu Hasneh told KUNA that Maj.-Gen. Dangot relayed the promise to the delegation, and added that he hoped construction material would be brought into Gaza "quickly" to complete the projects "with all due haste." Abu Hasneh quoted the officer as saying the two projects, one in Khan Younis and the other in Rafiah, would receive "priority."
The projects came to a halt four years ago, after Hamas took over Gaza and Israel imposed a closure on the area. The closure includes a ban on importation of construction material that could also be used for terrorist purposes. This includes cement, steel, and gravel.
According to KUNA, the homes are intended to house "thousands of families whose homes had been destroyed during the Israeli attacks prior to pullout from Gaza."
The first project, Tal El-Sultan in west Rafiah, is financed by Saudi Arabia. Phase One, costing $52 million, includes 752 housing units, a school, and a health care facility. UNRWA would cover the cost of the Phase Two, which would see construction of another 850 housing units.
"There was also a promise to facilitate UNRWA work on the second project in western Khan Younis, executed with Japanese funding, which would see construction of 439 housing units. The cost of this project is some USD 13.5 million," the UNRWA media adviser said.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi was quoted as saying, "We welcome these promises, and hope they would be translated into real progress on the ground and that we would see real action to facilitate and speed up execution and completion of these projects."