In Gaza offensive, Israel hits Western aid projects

Beit Hanoun’s veteran bridge builder shrugged off his latest misfortune: the Israelis destroyed the main span into town three years ago. The European Union rebuilt it. And overnight the Israelis destroyed it again.

 "I’m sad but what can I do," said Wagih Elbity, the city’s 59-year-old civil engineer, after an air strike turned another of his concrete bridges into a mound of rubble and sewage.

 
Elbity said Beit Hanoun, a northern Gaza town of 20,000, would appeal again to the EU for funds to rebuild. But with the Hamas-led Palestinian government facing a Western aid boycott, he said: "This time, they cannot give us any money."

 
The air and ground offensive has also devastated Gaza’s infrastructure, compounding Palestinian hardships and upsetting international donors who have poured millions of dollars into rebuilding it after earlier Israeli offensives.

 
Western diplomats said it was unclear when and if any of the projects could be rebuilt. The , the European Union and other donors have vowed to withhold funds until Hamas recognises and renounces violence.

"It’s complicated by the fact that we cannot even talk to the Hamas ministers," said Nils Eliasson, ‘s consul-general in Jerusalem. "We are very concerned that installations we financed for the well-being of the people of Gaza are being wasted," he said.

 The government of Sweden provided two of the six electric transformers that were destroyed on June 28 — at a cost of $1 million each.

 
Swedish, British and other envoys have stepped up pressure on in recent days. Even the , ‘s staunchest ally, is complaining about strikes against bridges and power stations, some built with taxpayer money.

 

Since the bombing began on June 28, two of the largest donors to the Palestinians — the European Union and — have seen several large projects destroyed or damaged. The Japanese government just launched a $19 million programme to rehabilitate and widen Gaza‘s Salahudeen Road, badly damaged by previous Israeli raids, when the Israelis bombed it again.

 
Not even Washington has been spared. Gaza‘s main power plant, bombed on the first night of the offensive, was insured for up to $48 million by an arm of the government.

 

Former Palestinian public works minister, Abdel-Rahman Hamad, said international reconstruction projects will have to be put on hold until agrees not to strike them in future.

 

"How do you convince donors to fund a bridge when the Israelis are going to just destroy it again?" asked Hamad as he peered through the gaping holes blasted in the Beit Hanoun bridge. "It is a waste of time and money."

 

With more than $300,000 in EU funding, the four-lane bridge was just two years old when it was bombed on Saturday.But one lane survived. Early Tuesday morning, finished the job with two missiles, witnesses said.

 
Now only one bridge remains standing in Beit Hanoun. "After two or three nights, maybe will destroy this bridge too," Elbity said.

 


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