$30bn pledged for Iraq reconstruction

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi (L), Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah (C) and Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres attend the second day of an international conference for reconstruction of Iraq, in Kuwait City. (AFP)
Updated 15 February 2018
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$30bn pledged for Iraq reconstruction

KUWAIT CITY: Saudi Arabia allocated $1.5 billion for the reconstruction of Iraq as foreign donors pledged billions of dollars at a conference in Kuwait on Wednesday.
Governments, global funds, organizations and investors offered $30 billion in loans and investment to repair the structural damage inflicted on the country during the three-year war with Daesh.
Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said the pledge from Saudi Arabia included a $1 billion loan through the Saudi Fund for Development and $500 million in export credit.
Kuwait said it would provide $1 billion in loans from the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development and $1 billion in direct investments.
Turkey said it would give Iraq $5 billion in credit lines and Qatar announced $1 billion in loans and investments.
The UAE pledged $500 million for rebuilding, Germany said it would provide $350 million in assistance and Britain pledged up to $1 billion annually in export credit over 10 years.
Iraq said it needs $88 billion to rebuild areas of the country decimated by the Daesh occupation and the battle to defeat the extremists.
“Our meeting today is a continuation of our pursuits to counter and combat terrorism and counter the dangers and challenges it brings,” said Kuwait Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. “The stability and security of Iraq means the stability and security of Kuwait and the whole region.”
The donations on the third day of the conference still fell far short of the overall figure required by Iraq to rebuild.
Iraqi officials estimate that $17 billion needs to go toward rebuilding homes. The UN estimates 40,000 homes need to be rebuilt in Mosul alone.
“We look at the future of Iraq with confidence…we are determined to succeed to create the inclusiveness (of the Iraqi people) despite the challenges that we face today and will face in the future,” Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider Abadi, said.
He also said the money would not be lost to corruption — “one of the reasons for the rise of terrorism”.
“Last week, we launched a string of measures to simplify procedures for investments,” Abadi said.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Iraqi people were finally united for a common purpose, which is the defeat of Daesh and the rise of a new Iraq.
 “Despite years of conflict, there is still a common identity that binds together the people of Iraq,” she said.  
“We have to ensure that the dark days of Iraq are gone for good. Investing in infrastructure is essential, so is investing in human capital.”
Mogherini said the EU aid would go toward humanitarian development and stabilization.
Millions of Iraqis have returned to their homes to rebuild their lives, but 2.5 million remained displaced, according to the UN.
UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, used the conference to launch a program focused on revitalizing areas of Iraq most at risk of violence and supporting an inclusive political process.
“Iraqis are building a new Iraq,” Guterres said. “An Iraq that is ready for wide-ranging reforms, including to its public finance and security sectors. The UN system will do its part and stand with you every step of the way.”
Other pledges came from Japan, which said it would contribute $100 million this year through UN agencies and international organizations.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday said the Export-Import Bank of the United States was set sign a $3 billion memorandum of understanding with Baghdad, which would “set a stage for future cooperation across key sectors of Iraq’s economy including oil and gas, transportation, and commodities.”
Daesh seized large areas of north and west Iraq in 2014. Baghdad finally announced the extremist’s defeat in December.
Cities like Mosul and Ramadi suffered the worst destruction during the group’s violent occupation. Extensive damage was also done to the country’s infrastructure, including the oil and gas sectors.


Israeli forces wound 77 Palestinians at protest near Gaza Strip border

Protesters run for cover from teargas during Friday’s protests in Gaza. (AP)
Updated 20 October 2018
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Israeli forces wound 77 Palestinians at protest near Gaza Strip border

  • Palestinians have been protesting along the border since March 30, demanding an end to Israel’s blockade of the territory and the right to return to lands that Palestinians fled or were driven from upon Israel’s founding in 1948

GAZA: Israeli soldiers shot and wounded 77 Palestinians during protests near the Gaza Strip border on Friday, the enclave’s Health Ministry said.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said about 10,000 demonstrators massed at the border and that some threw burning tires, grenades and explosive devices at the troops across the fence. About 30 Palestinians suffered tear gas inhalation, the Gaza Health Ministry said.
But the protest was relatively small — some of the previous gatherings included about 30,000 people, a sign that tensions that have built up in the past few days may be easing.
On Thursday, Israel had ramped up armored forces along the Gaza border, a day after a rocket fired from the enclave destroyed a home in southern Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, vowed “very strong action” if attacks continued. A Palestinian official said Egyptian security officials had held separate meetings in the past few days with Israeli counterparts and with leaders of the Palestinian Hamas group that rules Gaza in an effort to prevent an escalation in violence.
Palestinians have been protesting along the border since March 30, demanding an end to Israel’s blockade of the territory and the right to return to lands that Palestinians fled or were driven from upon Israel’s founding in 1948. About 200 Gazans have been killed by Israeli troops since the protests started, according to Palestinian Health Ministry figures. Pale stinians have launched incendiary balloons and kites into Israel and on occasion breached the Israeli frontier fence. More than 2 million Palestinians are packed into the narrow coastal enclave. Israel pulled troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005 but maintains tight control of its land and sea borders.
Egypt also restricts movement in and out of Gaza on its border. Nickolay Mladenov, the UN’s Mideast peace envoy, earlier urged Israel and the Palestinians to exercise restraint ahead of the protests. Mosque loudspeakers in the Palestinian enclave urged Gazans to attend Friday’s demonstrations, despite statements by Gaza’s leaders that Hamas seeks to rein in the protests. “In light of today’s planned Gaza march, I urge all to exercise restraint, to proceed in a peaceful manner, and to avoid escalation,” Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement. “The UN is working with Egypt and its partners to avoid violence, address all humanitarian issues and support reconciliation.”
Egyptian intelligence officials met with Hamas and Israeli officials on Thursday in efforts to broker a cease-fire and ease months of deadly border protests. Egypt and the UN have attempted to negotiate a truce between Israel and Hamas for weeks in a bid to ease tensions in the beleaguered Gaza Strip.
Hamas has organized weekly protests since March that seek, in part, to secure an easing of the Egyptian-Israeli blockade of the Palestinian enclave imposed after the Islamic militant group seized control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in 2007 in an armed coup.
At least 156 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire at the protests, and an Israeli solider was killed by a Palestinian sniper.
The protests have intensified in recent weeks as Egyptian and UN cease-fire negotiations have faltered, and cross-border violence earlier this week has brought tensions to a simmer.
On Wednesday, a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip destroyed a house in the Israeli city of Beersheba in the worst bout of violence in recent weeks. Israel retaliated with airstrikes and has beefed up its military forces along the border. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Security Cabinet resolved to retaliate more severely to cross-border attacks, but has thus far refrained from further action, suggesting it was giving the Egyptians a chance to restore calm.