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An increased flow of essential building material – primarily cement, steel and aggregates entering the Gaza Strip via underground tunnels along the Gaza-Egypt border – has allowed reconstruction of hundreds of religious sites in Gaza to begin, destroyed during Israel’s Operation Caste Lead ending January 2009. Nearly a quarter of Gaza’s 850 mosques were affected by Israel’s 23-day offensive, characterised by an aerial bombardment and subsequent ground invasion. 45 mosques were totally destroyed, 107 sustained major damage, and about another 50 minor damages, such as smashed windows and doors from bombing, according to the Gaza public works and housing ministry, Awqaf and religious affairs ministry, and private mosque owners.
“Gaza is a religious society and mosques are the center of our communities,” says Awqaf ministry official Abdullah Abugrboah, and “Gaza’s population is 99 percent Muslim (predominantly Sunni), with a Christian population of less than 1 percent.”
It will cost about $25 million to reconstruct the 45 mosques, at an average cost of $500,000 per mosque, says deputy housing minister Yasser Shante, and about $10 million to repair the 157 that sustained damages, at an average cost of $100,000.