UN envoy Robert Serry
UN envoy Robert SerryFlash 90

The United Nations on Tuesday said that a program to reconstruct Gaza after this summer's war with Israel has begun, The Associated Press (AP) reports.

Middle East peace process coordinator Robert Serry said the program started Monday with the sale of construction materials to 700 Gaza residents whose homes were damaged.

Palestinian Authority estimates say that as much as $6 billion will be required to repair the damage sustained during the conflict, noted AP.

Serry added that some 60,000 Gaza residences need to be repaired immediately.

The UN envoy said a few months ago that the global body was ready to check imports of construction material sent to Gaza in order to ease Israel's concerns that supplies could be used to rebuild Hamas tunnels.

"Construction material must be allowed into Gaza to this effect - aggregate, bar and cement. And their access to Gaza must be facilitated in such a way that fulfills Israel's security concerns," Serry said at the time. "The United Nations stands ready to lend its support in this regard.

Ample evidence has proven that Hamas uses UN and other aid money, as well as materials, to build terror tunnels to attack Israelis instead of providing municipal buildings to its own citizens. 

While Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu originally conditioned the rehabilitation of Gaza on its disarmament, the issue did not come up at a recent international donors’ conference on rebuilding Gaza, which was held in Cairo.

Israeli officials admitted that in reality, the rehabilitation of Gaza was not contingent upon its demilitarization but only on a ceasefire, adding that Israel will demand the demilitarization in return for the continued development of the coastal enclave.

Hamas, for its part, has threatened Israel with violence if the rebuilding process in Gaza is delayed.