JERUSALEM A senior U.N. official on Monday estimated that Israel's military offensive in the West Bank caused between $300 million and $400 million damage to Palestinian property and reconstruction would take at least a year.
Among the places hardest hit was Nablus, the West Bank's largest city, where the damage was estimated at $110 million, including to the historical Green Mosque, said Tim Rothermel, the special representative of the U.N. Development Program responsible for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Rothermel said representatives from the United Nations, the World Bank and the European Commission would complete their damage assessment by May 15 and draw up a plan for reconstruction.
The report will be distributed to international donors who would then channel funds or allocate additional money to specific projects. Rothermel said the German government has approved a grant for $9.4 million for job creation while discussions with the U.S. government on new funding had begun.
He estimated that repairs would take from a year to 18 months to complete.
The Israeli military said it would not comment until the damage report has been completed. Israel launched its offensive March 29, occupying six of the West Bank's eight main towns for periods ranging from a few days to several weeks. Israel has said it was forced to take the action to crush Palestinian militias after a string of deadly suicide attacks against its civilians.
The Casbah, or old city of Nablus, was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting. Israeli forces entered Nablus on April 3 and withdrew April 21. At least 70 Palestinians were killed in the city, including about 30 civilians, according to doctors.
Throughout the West Bank, many Palestinian government buildings were destroyed by heavy shelling while facilities for delivering water and electricity services were also badly damaged.
Priority would be given to fixing broken windows, walls and ceilings "to get them (the Palestinians) back on their feet," Rothermel said in a telephone interview. Support would also be given to institutions and government ministries which had been ransacked and had their computers and files confiscated.
In Nablus, the building housing the governor's office was destroyed along with many official records, including land registration forms. In the town of Ramallah, the population registry and passport office were also demolished.
© 2002 The Associated Press