The May 20 ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, reached after a concerted effort by Egypt, Qatar and the US, provided a much-needed reprieve for the people of Gaza after 11 days of bloodshed and destruction. As Palestinians displaced by Israeli bombardment started returning to their homes and the scale of the damage inflicted on Gaza’s infrastructure became clear, the focus once again shifted to “rebuilding” the enclave, which has been under a land, air and sea blockade since 2007.
On May 18, two days before the ceasefire, the Egyptian presidency had already announced that it would give $500m to finance Gaza's reconstruction following Israel's latest round of aggression.
On the face of it, Cairo's pledge was a much welcome development – the Strip is undoubtedly in desperate need of any humanitarian and reconstruction assistance it can get from the international community. There are, however, reasons to be concerned about Egypt's offer of help.
First of all, the timing of the Egyptian announcement was jarring, given that it was made while Israel was still bombing civilian targets across the Gaza Strip. Egypt's promise to fund Gaza's reconstruction before a ceasefire was agreed helped lift some pressure off the Israeli government, which was facing growing international criticism for its disproportionate use of force and disregard for human life during its bombardment of Gaza. Second, there are suspicions that the true purpose of Egypt's pledge is not only to help rebuild Gaza but to ensure that Cairo has significant control over Palestinian affairs and that the Palestinian Authority take over security in Gaza.
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