Palestinian ministers arrive in war-ravaged Gaza to kickstart reconstruction

Palestinian health minister Jawad Awad speaks to the press upon his arrival in Gaza City on Dec 29, 2014. Around 50 Palestinian unity government officials, including eight ministers, arrived in Gaza Monday to kickstart reconstruction of the terr
Palestinian health minister Jawad Awad speaks to the press upon his arrival in Gaza City on Dec 29, 2014. Around 50 Palestinian unity government officials, including eight ministers, arrived in Gaza Monday to kickstart reconstruction of the territory devastated by a 50-day war with Israel, officials told AFP. -- PHOTO: AFP

GAZA CITY (AFP) - Around 50 Palestinian unity government officials, including eight ministers, arrived in Gaza Monday to kickstart reconstruction of the territory devastated by a 50-day war with Israel, officials told AFP.

The unity government was the fruit of an April reconciliation deal between the Islamist Hamas movement and the Fatah organisation of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

But Abbas has repeatedly complained that Hamas has prevented it asserting its authority in Gaza, where the Islamists have been dominant since ousting Fatah loyalists in 2007.

Monday's visit is only the second by ministers since the government's formation in June.

Government spokesman Ihab Bseiso told AFP the trip would last several days and was aimed at launching "the actual start of reconstruction" in Gaza.

Israel's devastating 50-day war with Hamas in July and August this year killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 73 on the Israeli side, most of them soldiers.

The Palestinian government says rebuilding the battered territory, which has experienced three wars in just six years, will cost around US$4 billion (S$5 billion).

The eight ministers who are travelling to Gaza from the West Bank town of Ramallah are the ministers of health, education, social affairs and local government, and the heads of the water, power and environment agencies, who have ministerial rank.

A spate of bombings last month targeting the property of Fatah officials in Gaza prompted Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah to cancel a scheduled visit.