GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — The United Nations' Mideast envoy on Thursday gave a rare upbeat assessment in the Gaza Strip, saying that reconstruction from last year's war between Israel and Hamas militants is speeding up.
Thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged in the 50 days of fighting. The reconstruction of hundreds of houses started last month with help from Qatar, which has donated millions of dollars to rebuild 1,000 housing units.
"I'm very happy to be able to report today that the reconstruction effort has visibly accelerated within the last two months," said Nikolay Mladenov, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process.
Construction materials are shipped into Gaza from Israel through a U.N.-supervised program that ensures the goods are not diverted to Hamas.
The program has approved applications from 3,400 families. Of them, 1,400 have already received cement, steel and gravel to start rebuilding.
However, Miladenov noted that faster reconstruction requires the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority to take full control and responsibility in the Hamas-run territory.
A unity deal reached last year was never implemented, and Hamas, which seized Gaza in 2007, remains firmly in control. The militant group is sworn to Israel's destruction, branded a terrorist group by Israel and the West, and is largely isolated internationally.
More than 2,200 Palestinians, including 1,462 civilians, were killed during the war, according to the U.N. Seventy-three people, including six civilians, died on the Israeli side.
"We are very far from reaching the goal of restoring normal life to Gaza," Miladenov said.
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