Debate rises over Gaza aid distribution

A woman stands among the remains of her home in a destroyed neighborhood in a suburb of Gaza City, Gaza Strip.


KAI RYSSDAL: Israel pulled the last of its troops from Gaza early this morning. At the same time aid organizations and other countries began to pour money and supplies into the territory. The damage is estimated at $1.5 billion. And there's some disagreement among Palestinian groups over who should distribute whatever aid there is. Daniel Estrin reports from Jerusalem.

DANIEL ESTRIN: Johan Eriksson, a spokesperson for the U.N., drove around the Gaza Strip today to assess the damage.

JOHAN ERIKSSON: The devastation is massive. It's going to take a very long time, and it's going to take lots of money.

Western diplomats say $1.6 billion are needed to rebuild infrastructure like roads and sewage systems. But there are more pressing concerns. The U.N. says that Gaza needs at least $330 million for food and medicine. And U.N. operations in Gaza need their own rehabilitation. Fifty of their buildings were damaged, including a massive food storehouse that was burned down in an Israeli artillery attack.

ERIKSSON: We're just cleaning up now and trying to get somewhat operational again.

Today, Israel sent in 181 trucks full of emergency supplies. Aid agencies like the Red Cross and the World Food Program are pitching in, too. And over the weekend, TV stations across the Arab world collected over half a billion dollars in a telethon for Gaza.

But the tricky part is actually getting the money there. There's a standoff between Hamas, which controls Gaza, and its rival faction, Fatah, which governs the West Bank. Neither faction wants the other to hand out the money.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, says Israel's position is clear.

MARK REGEV: We will support fully the reconstruction of Gaza. We won't support the reconstruction of Hamas.

Israel has told aid groups that if they want to distribute money, they have to prove that not a penny will reach Hamas.

In Jerusalem, I'm Daniel Estrin for Marketplace.


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