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European envoys fear aid pinch after Gaza crisis

European leaders who helped raise billions of dollars in aid for Palestinians a year ago warned Thursday that fighting in Gaza could cause donors to think twice before giving again.
European diplomats said at least some projects supported by the $7.7 billion in international aid they helped raise in December 2007 have been damaged by Israel's assault in Gaza. Others asked whether the destruction in Gaza would dissuade donors in the future.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner met with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere and EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner for a follow-up meeting on how well the package is being funded and distributed.
In a final statement, they said Gaza would remain part of the donors' efforts, and that aid the area had already received had helped "sustain the Gazan population and finance some projects on the ground."
They said their first priority is ending the fighting in Gaza. They favor an urgent conference on Gaza's humanitarian needs and new work to resume the political peace process once it's over.
The Palestinian Authority is struggling to stay relevant as attention focuses on rival Hamas, many parts of Gaza lie in ruin, and European hopes that international funding may help Palestinians move toward peace are in tatters.
Palestinian surveyors estimate the Israeli campaign against Hamas has destroyed at least $1.4 billion worth of infrastructure in the already impoverished territory. European and other donors have poured money into Palestinian projects for years _ and may be called on again once the fighting finally ends.
"Many donors who over the years have given money to this region will ask the question: Shall we give once more for the construction of something which is being destroyed, re-constructed and destroyed?" Norway's Stoere said.
After the December 2007 conference, Kouchner said Palestinians were the "real winner" of the aid _ largely from Western and Arab countries and international groups and to be paid over 3 years.
At least $3 billion has already been paid, France's Foreign Ministry says: $1.7 billion for budgetary support, mainly to pay salaries of Palestinian civil servants; $600 million to $700 million for specific projects; and $700 million to $800 million for humanitarian aid.
The Foreign Ministry has said the money helped create 1,170 aid projects in the West Bank and Gaza to improve Palestinians' lives and paid 70,000 civil servant salaries in Gaza alone.
With access to Gaza restricted since the Israeli onslaught began, Western officials cannot gauge damage to projects funded by the conference, a French diplomat said.
A Gaza water facility, in Beit Lahiya, and road, school and well projects funded in Gaza appear to have been damaged, said the official. He spoke only on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Medical officials in Gaza say about 1,100 Palestinians have been killed since the Israel's offensive began Dec. 27 to stop Hamas rocket fire at Israeli towns.

Updated : 2021-05-18 22:20 GMT+08:00