BRUSSELS, Feb 28, 2009 – The European Commission announced Friday that it would donate 436 million euros (553 million dollars) in aid to the conflict-torn Gaza Strip at an international donors conference next week.
“By offering a substantial aid package we confirm our generosity and commitment towards the Palestinians,” EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said in a statement.
The commissioner is to pledge the funds, for this year, on Monday at a donors conference in Egypt aimed at helping rebuild Gaza following Israel’s war on Hamas, which started in late December.
The European Union is the biggest donor of funds to the Palestinians, providing more than half a billion euros each year, but it holds little political influence over Israel.
The Palestinian Authority has said that it will seek 2.8 billion dollars to rebuild Gaza, even as Israel warned of another military strike if arms smuggling into the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave continues.
“We will dedicate part of our assistance to early recovery after the conflict at the beginning of the year, notably for urgently needed removal of rubble and unexploded ordinance and for providing assistance for traumatised children,” Ferrero-Waldner said.
The funds will also be used to back a “cash for work” scheme and repair shelters damaged during Israel’s attack on Hamas militants, aimed at ending rocket attacks launched from Gaza on Israeli citizens.