US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Cairo on Sunday ahead of meeting with international officials as part of a conference to discuss the rebuilding of Gaza.
The conference hopes to raise billions of dollars towards efforts to rebuild those parts of Gaza hit during the recent war between Israel and Hamas. Kerry and 30 other officials will join UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in raising a record-breaking $1.6 billion in aid.
The Palestinian unity government released a 76-page reconstruction proposal ahead of the conference. The Palestinians are asking for $4 billion in funding, with majority of the funding going towards rebuilding homes for some 100,000 people left homeless by the conflict.
Kerry is expected to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the conference, State Department officials confirmed. The secretary is hoping to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
“You will hear the secretary reaffirm the commitment of the United States to helping the parties achieve a negotiated two-state solution and our willingness to re-engage in the negotiations and help facilitate successful negotiations,” a US official stated.
“More broadly we are interested in sort of breaking the cycle we have been in the last six years of war and reconstruction there,” the official added.
Kerry headed the high-profile peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians back in July. Peace talks eventually collapsed in April and were followed by the 50-day war in Gaza, the third such conflict between Gaza and Israel in six years.
Kerry announced at the conference that the US will pledge $212 million towards reconstruction efforts in Gaza. European and Gulf nations are expected to make significant donations during the conference.
In order to reassure potential donors, Palestinians are putting up what appears to be a united front after months of infighting between Hamas and Fatah officials. On Thursday, the unity government held its first ever cabinet meeting in Gaza, months after the unity government was announced.
While international leaders hash out in Cairo how much Hamas will receive to rebuild Gaza, a senior Palestinian official said on Friday that Israel will allow more building materials into Gaza this week as part of a UN-brokered deal.
Mohammed Mustafa, deputy prime minister in the Palestinian unity government, said shipments are to begin Sunday.
“We have an agreement with the Israeli side that the Palestinian Authority will deploy its officials on the crossings next week,” Mustafa told AP. “Starting Sunday, construction material will start to enter Gaza.”
Israel blocked all shipments of building materials into Gaza after it was discovered that Hamas, over the last several years, has been using the humanitarian aid to build terror tunnels into Israel. During Operation Protective Edge, Israel destroyed more than 30 Hamas tunnels that ran under the Gaza-Israel border.
Hamas and other Gaza-based terror organizations have already announced that minutes after the ceasefire with Israel took effect, they were already rebuilding the terror tunnels.