US pledges aid as Ban warns of Gaza 'tinderbox'

US pledges aid as Ban warns of Gaza 'tinderbox'
US Secretary of State John Kerry pledged S$270.6 million in aid for the reconstruction of Gaza.

CAIRO - US Secretary of State John Kerry pledged US$212 million (S$270.6 million) in aid to Gaza at a donors meeting in Cairo Sunday, as the UN chief warned that the Palestinian enclave remained a "tinderbox".

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has asked for US$4 billion to reconstruct the Gaza Strip, hammered during a 50-day conflict between Israel and Hamas militants in July and August.

But donors have expressed wariness toward contributing to reconstructing the Mediterranean coastal strip, which has undergone three conflicts in six years.

The humanitarian challenge was "enormous," Kerry told the Cairo meeting, adding "the people of Gaza do need our help, desperately, not tomorrow, not next week, they need it now." "Today I'm happy to announce an additional and immediate US$212 million to the Palestinian people," he said, adding that the funds would go to relief and budget support for the PA.

"Taken together the US has provided more than US$400 million to Palestinians over the last year, US$330 million just since this summer's conflict began." He warned that the Islamist Hamas movement in Gaza which fought the conflict with Israel continued to pose a threat.

"As long as there is a possibility that Hamas can fire rockets on Israeli civilians at any time, the people of Gaza will remain at risk of future conflict," Kerry said.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon also warned that another conflict could erupt.

"Gaza remains a tinderbox, the people desperately need to see results in their daily lives," Ban said.

PA president Mahmud Abbas repeated his calls for an internationally set timeframe for establishing a Palestinian state, telling the global envoys in attendance that the latest conflict had destroyed government institutions in Gaza.

Abbas and his rival Hamas have agreed on a unity government which convened last week for the first time in Gaza.

Egypt has said the conference will also try to shore up the PA in Gaza, seen as a key condition to allow aid into the Israeli-blockaded territory.

Israel, the United States and the European Union have designated Hamas, which has ruled the strip since 2007, as a terrorist group.

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