Program Launched to Expand Gaza Belt

Large-scale program to appeal to young families to move to the region with heavily subsidized housing.

Yishai Karov ,

Israeli home damaged by Gaza rock
Israeli home damaged by Gaza rock

Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) and his staff have implemented a new program to rebuild and expand Gaza Belt region communities Wednesday, to the tune of some 134.5 million shekel ($34.2 million). 

The expansion program is designed to help more families slowly settle the region, which was hit hardest by Operation Protective Edge over the summer. At the height of the war, up to 80% of Gaza Belt community families had fled inland due to the ongoing barrage of rocket fire, sparking concerns over the region's future. 

The 134.5 million shekel budget includes building 40 mobile homes for 25 million shekel ($6.4 million), building 150 permanent homes to be used as subsidized low-rent housing for a total of 79.5 million shekel ($20 million), and providing some 200 housing units for free at a subsidy of 30 million shekel ($7.6 million). 

Families who choose to opt for the low-cost housing will be provided with the option to buy, as well, with subsidies up to 600,000 shekel ($152,740) per family to buy an existing apartment or build on land in the area. 

Despite the war, the communities near Gaza "continue to grow thanks to the wonderful residents of the area," Ariel stated. "We ask for help to increase settlement in these communities and execute the government's decision. Our aims our clear: more and more people are building there." 

"We are in constant contact with the community leaders and the local councils and are responsive to their needs," he added. "I intend to closely monitor the implementation of things as quickly as possible." 

The move counterbalances contradictory security measures in the region. The IDF recently pulled patrols from Gaza Belt communities, after an ill-timed measure by the IDF and Defense Ministry earlier this year to cut guard posts around the same communities just months before Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. 

Residents also complained during last winter's snowstorm that maintenance on the fence was low-priority, further leaving communities at risk. 

An advanced observation system was initially instituted earlier this year, after there were multiple infiltrations into Israel through the border within the space of a week.