Cement arrives from Israel into Gaza (file)
Cement arrives from Israel into Gaza (file) Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90

Palestinian housing minister Mufid al-Hasayneh on Wednesday laid a brick for the first Gaza home to be rebuilt since the Israel-Hamas war a year ago, AFP reported.

Until now the only repairs have been to homes which were partially damaged, while 18,000 totally destroyed houses remain in ruins.

Hasayneh laid the brick at the Harara family's home in Shejaiya, an area east of Gaza City that was one of the worst hit by Israeli shelling during the war.

"The march towards real reconstruction of the Gaza Strip has begun, and nothing will stop it," Hasayneh said, according to AFP.

"We will see a lot of movement on the reconstruction front in the coming days. We will rebuild all homes destroyed by Israel," he said, thanking several Arab countries including Qatar and Saudi Arabia for their donations towards Gaza's reconstruction.

The reconstruction process is expected to take years, with UNRWA, the UN’s refugee agency having said that so far it only received enough money for 200 out of the 7,000 houses it is tasked with rebuilding.

UNRWA has estimated that the homes of more than 96,000 Gazans were destroyed or damaged during the conflict. Despite the Palestinians’ blaming of Israel, the high level of destruction is due to the fact that Hamas heavily entrenched its terrorist network in the civilian infrastructure of Gaza.

Donations pledged at an international conference in Cairo in October have been slow to arrive. Gaza’s Hamas rulers blame Israel as well over its naval blockade of Gaza, though Israel has allowed more than 1.1 million tons of construction material since October through the Kerem Shalom goods crossing.

A Hamas official warned recently that the coastal territory could become a breeding ground for extremism unless promised reconstruction is accelerated.