The United Nations has brokered an Israeli-Palestinian deal on delivering construction materials to Gaza that would ensure they will not be diverted by Hamas militants, an envoy said Tuesday.
The agreement on monitoring the supply of materials “must get up and running without delay,” Robert Serry, the UN envoy for the Middle East, told the UN Security Council.
The deal would allow private companies to move in to rebuild Gaza after a 50-day war ravaged the enclave and left more than 2,140 Palestinians dead.
It addresses Israel’s concerns that cement and other materials could be used to rebuild Hamas tunnels by setting up a UN monitoring mechanism of the imports.
Serry described the destruction in Gaza as “truly shocking,” with some 18,000 houses flattened or severely damaged while 65,000 Palestinians remain in UN-run shelters and 100,000 are homeless.
He appealed for the re-opening of crossing points to allow the flow of construction supplies and emphasized that quick action on reconstruction would provide a “signal of hope to the people of Gaza.”
Egypt is due to host a donor conference for Gaza reconstruction on October 12, supported by Norway.
“The crisis in Gaza is far from over and the window of opportunity to address critical needs and stabilize the situation is short,” Serry warned.
The envoy appealed for action to “change fundamentally the dynamics in Gaza,” warning that “if we do not, Gaza could implode — or, yet again, explode — possibly with a new and even more devastating round of violence.”
The Israeli defence ministry’s department for civil affairs in the Palestinian territories confirmed it had signed up for the deal.
“Israel has agreed to the proposal of the United Nations to establish a mechanism for rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip under the supervision and control of the UN,” it said in a statement.
“The mechanism will facilitate progress in rebuilding the Gaza Strip while safeguarding the security interests of the state of Israel.”
Following weeks of Egyptian-brokered negotiations, Israel and Hamas agreed to halt their fire in Gaza on August 26 after 50 days, their deadliest confrontation in years.
The indirect talks are set to resume mid-September to discuss longer-term issues.
UN diplomats, however, are concerned about the level of Israeli and Palestinian commitment to peace talks, with one Security Council member saying that the sides appeared to be drifting toward a “cold peace.”
The council separately has been unable to agree on a draft resolution to shore up the Gaza truce and set up mechanims that would prevent a return to fighting, after three wars in six years.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has warned that the international community is not ready to hand over billions for Gaza reconstruction without guarantees of a durable peace.