Can Gaza Be Rebuilt Through Tunnels? The Blockade Continues--No Supplies, No Rebuilding

How do you rebuild 5,000 homes, businesses and government buildings
when the only way supplies come into the prison called Gaza is through
tunnels? Will the steel I-beams for roofs bend 90 degrees to go
through the tunnels from Egypt? Will the tons of cement, lumber,
roofing materials, nails, dry wall and paint be hauled by hand, load
after load, 70 feet underground, through a tunnel 500 to 900 feet long
and then pulled up a 70 foot hole and put into waiting truck in Gaza?

The gates to Gaza slammed shut again on Thursday, February 5, the day
our three person group departed Gaza, having been allowed in for only
48 hours. The Egyptian government closed the border crossing into
Gaza continuing the sixteen month international blockade and siege.
The crossing had been briefly open to allow medical and humanitarian
supplies into Gaza following the devastating 22 day attack by the
Israeli military. The attacks killed 1,330 Palestinians and injured
over 5,500. The Israeli government said the attacks were to punish
Hamas and other groups for firing unguided rockets into Israeli,
rockets that over the past two years have killed about 25 Israelis.
Most international observers have called the Israeli response to the
rocket attacks disproportionate and collective punishment, elements of
war crimes.

Today, seventeen days after the gates swung closed on Gaza, they
remain firmly locked. Ceasefire talks in Cairo between the Israeli
government and Hamas are stalled. Opening the border with Egypt is a
contentious point in the ceasefire negotiations.

For the people of Gaza, rebuilding their homes, businesses, factories
is on hold. Over 5,000 homes and apartment buildings were destroyed
and hundreds of government buildings, including the Parliament
building, were smashed. Building supplies, cement, wood, nails, glass
will have to be brought in from outside Gaza. Two cement factories in
northern Gaza were completely destroyed by Israeli bombs. Prime
Minister Olmert's spokesperson Mark Regev said reconstruction supplies
like steel and cement can be used by Hamas to build more bunkers and
rockets.

Dissension in the Palestinian ranks between Fatah and Hamas continues,
even after the brutal Israeli attack on Gaza. Palestinian Prime
Minister Salam Fayyad wants aid (perhaps as high as $2 billion) for
rebuilding Gaza to be sent directly to each homeowner in Gaza,
allowing donors to avoid the elected Hamas government. The U.S.,
Israeli and other countries have designated Hamas as a terrorist
organization, and do not want international aid in Gaza administered
by Hamas, even though the people of Gaza elected the Hamas government.
On March 2, an international donor conference will be held in Egypt
to discuss the costs of rebuilding Gaza.

Who Profits from War and Occupation?

Building supplies will have to be brought from outside Gaza. Israel
controls 90 percent of the land borders to Gaza-the northern and
eastern borders and 100 percent of the ocean on the west side of Gaza.
Egypt controls the southern border with Gaza.

The Israelis who bombed Gaza will be the primary financial
beneficiaries of the rebuilding of Gaza. They bombed it and now will
sell construction materials to rebuild what they have bombed, exactly
like the United States has done in Iraq. Egyptians too will benefit
financially from the reconstruction-high priced small construction
materials that will fit into the tunnels are no doubt have been
transiting through the tunnels for the past 6 weeks. Israeli women
had created a website detailing who profits from occupation.

No doubt a second website is under construction that will track which
Israeli, Egyptian and American companies will benefit from the bombing
of Gaza.

Prisoner Exchanges as a Part of the Ceasefire

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his security cabinet said this
week that no border crossings will be open until the Israeli soldier
Gilad Schalit
is returned to Israel. Schalit was captured by Hamas in
2006 in an Israeli cross border raid into Gaza. Hamas has demanded the
release of up to 1,400 Palestinian soldiers in exchange for Shalit.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Hamas "had no objection" to
Shalit's release if Israel would release 1,400 of 11,000 Palestinian
prisoners held by Israel, including Parliamentarians elected in Gaza
in 2006. In the past, Israel has agreed to exchanges of large numbers
of Palestinian prisoners for a few captured troops or their bodies.
But Israeli and Palestinian officials had not agreed where the
released prisoners would be sent after the swap. Israeli wants the
prisoners expelled out of the country and Hamas wants them returned to
their homes in Gaza or the West Bank.

"Open the Borders" International Delegation to Gaza

On March 5, I will be part of a 30-member international delegation
that will travel to the Gaza border with Egypt in solidarity with the
women of Gaza for International Women's Day. Israeli women will be at
the Israeli border crossing into Gaza. Groups all over the world
will join in with pressure on the Israeli, Egyptian and American
governments to open the border to Gaza and let the people of Gaza
rebuild their lives. For more information about the international
delegation, click here.