In Gaza, in the labyrinth of reconstruction

By Louis Imbert

Posted today at 04:27

From the windows of his office, perched on the Gaza ledge, Jawdat Khoudary contemplates the slack sea and the ruins of a villa, owned by a businessman suspected of working for Hamas, reduced to bits during the last war, in May, by the Israeli air force. Mr. Khoudary sighs. If it were up to him, he would retire.

This Cairo-trained engineer, boss of one of the largest construction companies in Gaza, apprehends the reconstruction phase that is beginning. At nearly 70 years and three past conflicts (2008-2009, 2012, 2014), he is as tired of rebuilding the Palestinian enclave as the international donors with whom he works.

Mr. Khoudary would like to devote himself to the museum he has set up in the lobby of the hotel where he receives: a collection of capitals from ancient Greece with acanthus leaves and figurines, including a pretty little terracotta Venus , rusty European swords, Islamic earthenware with floral interlacing. These remains, fished off Gaza or unearthed in this strip of sand under Israeli-Egyptian blockade since 2007, he is preserving them for the future.

Company director Jawdat Khoudary in his hotel office in Gaza on September 30, 2021.

The fact is, Gaza’s fourth reconstruction does not look good. “Apart from the Egyptians, who are improving a stretch of road by the sea, towards the Israeli border, I haven’t seen a single project start. There is no money, no calls for tenders… And there will be no international donors’ conference, as in 2014 ”, predicts Mr. Khoudary, a bit defeatist. Egypt and Qatar have both pledged $ 500 million (€ 432 million) for infrastructure projects yet to be determined.

“The suffering has continued to accumulate”

Already workers, engineers of the company egyptian Abnaa Sinai (Son of Sinai), are active on nearly 5 km of coastal road, between Gaza City and the northern border, which Israeli bombs have pierced in search of Hamas tunnels. In mid-October, 35 million euros from Qataris will be invested in the repair of homes destroyed during the war.

In June, the World Bank estimated that the conflict had caused, in addition to 260 Palestinian deaths and 13 on the Israeli side, some 330 million euros in material damage, and 164 million euros in business losses. This is little compared to the 2014 war, during which Israeli infantry wreaked havoc on Gaza. But to stop at this observation is to ignore the particular economy of the enclave. “Certainly, there is less destruction this time around, but the suffering has continued to accumulate during the fourteen years of siege. This is what must be compensated ”, pleads Mr. Khoudary. In short, Gaza is missing out on only growth peak that is accessible to him.

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