During periods of armed conflicts, it is the civilian population that suffers the most. Nowhere is this more true than in the Gaza Strip, a 360 square kilometer tag of land with a population of just under one and a half million.
It is controlled by Hamas, a U.S. designated terrorist group. In the war between Hamas and Israel that began after Palestinian militants intensified their rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel, it was the civilians that paid the price.
After 22 days of fighting, the civilian dead number over 1,300 and around 5,000 have been injured. Some 21,000 homes have been destroyed. The humanitarian toll continues to rise in the Gaza strip as borders remain effectively closed and a cease-fire arrangement is still inconclusive.
In an effort to raise money to rebuild Gaza, Egypt will host an international donors' conference on March 2 in Sharm-el-Sheikh, which is strongly supported by the United States. The conference will bring together donors to facilitate Gaza recovery and strengthen the Palestinian economy. The U.S., which will be represented by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, urges members of the international community to show similar support for the Egyptian initiative.
The United States sees the March 2 conference as an opportunity to address, along with other donors and international organizations, the immediate humanitarian suffering in Gaza and supports the Palestinian Authority's plan for the reconstruction of Gaza as an integral part of a future Palestinian state.
We welcome Egypt's leadership in consolidating a ceasefire in Gaza, and hope that conditions on the ground will allow the United States and other members of the international community to provide substantial levels of assistance to the people of Gaza.
Since the 22-day Gaza offensive began on December 27th of last year, the U.S. has contributed nearly $60 million in emergency assistance for Palestinians in Gaza. And it stands ready to contribute much more.