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The United States and Israel are responsible for obstructing Gaza Strip’s reconstruction process after Israel’s Cast Lead Operation against the enclave that ended in January 2009, a senior official of the deposed Hamas government told Xinhua on Sunday.

Yousef Mansi, minister of housing and public work in the Hamas government told Xinhua in an interview that both the Israel and the United States “are still blocking any process of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip by tightening the blockade and pressuring on Hamas and the Palestinians.”

He accused Israel and the United States of pressuring on regional and international parties “to tighten the Israeli siege and keeping it imposed to block any opportunity of reconstructing the Gaza Strip despite the humanitarian needs of the people.”

“The ongoing obstruction is a big shame for humanity. There are hundreds of displaced Palestinians who live in tents and don’t have houses after they were destroyed by the Israeli occupation during the war, and the Palestinians haven’t received any compensation,” said Mansi.

The international community’s position to keep the siege imposed is “negative,” said the minister.

Israel launched a large-scale air and ground operation against Gaza at the end of 2008, which lasted for 22 days and ended with a ceasefire between the Hamas and Israel. The war left 1,440 Palestinians killed and houses and infrastructure destroyed.

Two months after the war ended, countries led by the United States held in March 2009 a donor conference in Egypt and pledged seven billion U.S. dollars for reconstructing the coastal enclave. However, the Israeli siege and the internal Palestinian split blocked the process.

“The international donors’ pledge hasn’t been implemented in the Gaza Strip as long as the Israeli siege is still going on,” said Mansi, without referring to the current rift between his movement and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party.

Israel imposed a tight blockade on the Gaza Strip right after the Hamas movement seized control of the enclave by force in June 2007, and routed President Abbas’ security forces. Israel considered the enclave a hostile entity and refused to deal directly with the Hamas.

“The international pledge to reconstruct the Gaza Strip was only a propaganda and a political blackmail. This had given Israel a golden chance to achieve what it had failed to achieve during the war,” said Mansi, stressing that his government “rejects such kind of blackmail.”

Israel has relaxed its blockade following the international pressure after its naval commando forces’ attack on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla on May 31, during which nine activists were killed and dozens were wounded.

“We welcome any possible participation, whether it is regional or international or even from organizations of law or human rights, in reconstructing the Gaza Strip. We guarantee to offer all types of facilities,” said Mansi.

The densely populated Gaza Strip suffers from a severe housing crisis due to the more than three years of Israeli blockade and the destruction caused by the Israeli offensive. According to official figures, the Gaza Strip is in an urgent need for 100,000 housing units.

“The need for 100,000 housing units and the shortage of housing had caused a horrible rise of prices of apartments and the lands for constructions,” Mansi said.

Admitting that over the past three years certain amount of construction materials were smuggled in the enclave through tunnels under the Israeli-Gaza borders, Mansi said “this never helps to conduct a perfect and complete reconstruction.”

The Israeli relaxation of the blockade did not help at all, Mansi said, adding “Israel still bars basic materials in Gaza.” Xinhua

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