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Gaza cease-fire raises hopes for reconstruction


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The Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt is currently limited to foot traffic. Hamas, an offshoot of Egypt’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood, wants Egypt to turn the crossing into a bustling cargo terminal.

"We expect that international and Arab institutions are ready to help. We don’t expect to have a problem," al-Shanti said.

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Hamas has put the damage to Gaza’s civilian infrastructure at roughly $750 million, a sum that will probably have to be raised through special U.N. emergency appeals and donations from wealthy Arab countries.

The future of the crossing will be a central issue in indirect, Egyptian-brokered negotiations between Israel and Hamas. Under the cease-fire, Israel made a vague commitment to ease its closing of Gaza. But the details must be negotiated.

With Hamas rejecting Israel’s key demand — that arms smuggling into Gaza be halted — it remains far from certain whether Hamas will get what it wants. Egypt also has not been clear how far it is willing to open its border, fearing that this will allow Israel to "dump" Gaza on Egypt and undermine hopes for reconciliation between Hamas and Abbas’ rival government in the West Bank.

Ayman el-Kholi, whose two-story home was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike aimed at militants, said Hamas government representatives and fighters, including Hamas strongman Mahmoud Zahar, visited him and promised compensation.

"They promised that after things calm down, they will begin to reconstruct all homes destroyed and not just ours," he said.

In the meantime, the 41-year-old banker has sent his six children to sleep at various relatives’ homes, and he is staying with a friend. The rubble from the destroyed building was still in a heap on Sunday as he waited for the only government tractor to come remove it.

The entire block was damaged by airstrike. Shops were buried and a nearby workshop for electrical appliances was severely damaged.

"We don’t save in banks. All my money was in the house. All of it is now under the rubble, around $10,000 plus my wife’s gold," el-Kholi said. "We are waiting for an opening of the crossing. We are waiting for donor countries, from Arab countries, to help us rebuild the house again."


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