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Kerry Soliciting Aid Funds For Gaza Reconstruction


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News I'm Ari Shapiro. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas left the Gaza Strip in ruins. Donors have gathered in Cairo to discuss rebuilding the territory, and that includes representatives from the United States. Palestinians say they need $4 billion to rebuild. Donors say they don't want to pour money into the region to see the conflict repeat year after year. Secretary of State John Kerry is among dozens of foreign ministers at this meeting. NPR's Michele Kelemen is with him in Cairo. She joins us now. Good morning.


SHAPIRO: Describe the Palestinians' needs. What did they say they require from the global community?

KELEMEN: Well, you know, this is the third conflict in six years and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is speaking here, talked about just how much damage was suffered this time around. There was more than - 2,100 Palestinians were killed, 18,000 departments destroyed, along with infrastructure, and things are moving slowly. I mean, there was a deal worked out with Israel under which the United Nations monitors all the building material that comes in; that's to make sure that it's not diverted to Hamas to build more tunnels into Israeli villages. Palestinians say they need not only for that material to move more quickly, but they also want to see Israel's blockade of Gaza lifted so that the people can get back to work.

SHAPIRO: Did Secretary of State John Kerry come with specific offers?

KELEMEN: Well, he announced $212 million that he says is on top of the $118 million in humanitarian aid that the U.S. has been spending since the summer. He said that's really for the urgent humanitarian needs. And U.S. officials have said that they really don't expect the pledges to come anywhere close to the $4 billion that the Palestinians say they need over the next few years.

As you mentioned, donors are wary of this cycle of violence in Gaza, and Kerry was among those who said that needs to be broken. He said it's not enough just to have a cease-fire. Israelis and Palestinians need to make tough choices and get back to peace talks. But the problem is, Ari, those talks that he led collapsed earlier this year. Both sides are really very far apart, and there are big questions hanging over Gaza, particularly the role of Hamas. Israel wants the militant group demilitarized. Egypt's president, who opened this session today, also called for the Palestinian Authority to extend its control over Gaza. But at the moment, the PA is really only starting to take control of some of the crossings, not the whole area.

SHAPIRO: And of course, beyond Gaza, this region has many crises going on right now. What else does Secretary Kerry hope to get out of this meeting?

KELEMEN: Well, the big topic on all of his sideline meanings here is the U.S. air campaign against ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria. He has meetings, you know, with members of this U.S.-led coalition, Qatar and Jordan, for instance, and more meetings scheduled for Paris, which is his next stop. He wraps up this trip in Vienna, and there he plans to meet Iran's foreign minister to touch base on nuclear talks 'cause, as you know, the U.S. and Iran and the Europeans are facing a November deadline. And that's fast approaching.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Michele Kelemen speaking with us from Cairo. Thanks, Michele.

KELEMEN: Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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