Brussels - An international donors' conference raised 456 million euros (560.4 million dollars) Tuesday to build a desalination plant for the Gaza Strip, but fell short of fully funding the project aimed at supplying 2 million people with drinking water.
Siege from all sides
The Gaza Strip has been under a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt after the militant group Hamas seized control in 2007. The blockade is stifling the economy and hampering efforts to supply humanitarian aid.
More than 95 per cent of the water in the narrow coastal strip is polluted and therefore not drinkable, according to the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), one of the groups behind the desalination project.
An overall 562.3 million euros will be needed to build the plant, which will be the largest infrastructure project ever undertaken in the Gaza Strip, according to the UfM.
Improving the living conditions of the population of the Gaza Strip
The funding raised Tuesday "takes us a step closer to making a reality of this project and to improve living conditions in Gaza," said EU Neighbourhood Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn.
"This conference carries a message of hope to our people," added Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.
Also Tuesday, a meeting took place in Brussels of the so-called Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee, which supports institution-building in preparation for Palestinian statehood.
Unity between the West Bank and Gaza
Ahead of the meeting, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini stressed the need for unity between Gaza and the West Bank, which is ruled by the Palestinian Authority.
She made reference to a firebrand speech by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday attacking the United States, noting that it underlined how fragile the situation in the region is.