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Donors at a conference in Egypt have pledged .4bn (£3.3bn) for Gaza, which was left badly damaged by this summer s conflict between Hamas and Israel.

Half of the money will be dedicated to the reconstruction of the coastal strip, said Norwegian foreign minister Borge Brende.

He did not say what will the other half would be spent on, but other delegates spoke of boosting economic activity, emergency relief and other projects needed in the territory.

The .4bn (£3.4bn) figure was higher than the bn (£2.5bn) that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had initially sought. The US is due to provide 2m (£132m).

American Secretary of State John Kerry called for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to resume while Egypt urged a wider deal based on a 2002 Arab initiative.

Mr Kerry said the new money, which nearly doubles American aid to the Palestinians this year, would go towards security, economic development, food and medicine, shelter and water and sanitation projects.

He said Gazans need our help desperately - not tomorrow, not next week, but they need it now .

The pledges were made at a conference in Cairo, attended by officials from more than 50 countries and at least 20 organisations, including UN chief Ban Ki-moon and European Union negotiator Catherine Ashton.

The EU promised 8m (£353m), while Qatar pledged bn.

Mr Abbas said there would be a transparent and responsible use of the funds.

He said this summer s conflict had caused tragedies that are difficult to be described by words ... Entire neighbourhoods have been reduced to rubble and 90 families are no longer listed in the civil register .

Donors plan to funnel the aid through Mr Abbas Palestinian Authority, and bypass militant group Hamas.

Mr Abbas and Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, recently formed a reconciliation government which held its first cabinet meeting in Gaza last week.

But a blockade of Gaza enforced by both Egypt and Israel remains in force.

Egypt, the most populous Arab country, brokered the current ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians in August.

But it is now urging Israel to agree to an Arab peace initiative floated by Saudi Arabia in 2002 which offers full recognition of Israel, but only if it gives up all land seized in the 1967 Middle East war and agrees to a just solution for Palestinian refugees.

Mr Abbas said the 2002 Arab plan could be the framework for a new comprehensive approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Israeli governments have rejected the Arab initiative but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently suggested a greater role for the country s Arab neighbours in the pursuit of peace.

Meanwhile, a former international development minister has told Sky News that Britain has a historic and moral duty to recognise Palestine as a state.

Sir Alan Duncan said shame had been brought on the UK by its decision to stand back from taking a decision on the issue, given its historic responsibility in the Middle East.

British MPs will be asked to support moves urging the Government to recognise Palestine as a state alongside Israel during a Commons debate on Monday.

Around 2,100 people died, mostly Palestinian civilians, during the 50-day war between Israel and Hamas in July and August.


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