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International donors have pledged $5.2 billion to help rebuild
International donors have pledged $5.2 billion to help rebuild the Gaza Strip, Egypt's foreign minister said on Monday.

"This is significantly more than we expected," Ahmed Aboul Gheit said.

Delegates representing some 85 countries and international organizations gathered earlier on Monday in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh for a conference on the reconstruction of the enclave, devastated by a three-week offensive by Israel in December-January.

Tel Aviv's military operation, designed to put a stop to the firing by militants of homemade rockets at southern Israeli border towns, killed some 1,300 Palestinians and injured another 5,000. Around 50,000 people were also left homeless by the ground and air assault.

The Egyptian foreign minister said $4.48 billion had been pledged at the conference, but factoring in the donors' previous obligations, the aid package would exceed $5.2 billion.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who attended the conference, had said the impoverished enclave would need some $2.8 billion in aid for reconstruction projects.

The conference was also attended by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, as well as another 45 foreign ministers from other countries.

A meeting of members of the Middle East peace Quartet - the EU, Russia, the UN and the U.S. - also discussed progress on a Palestinian-Israel peace settlement on the sidelines of the donor conference.

On Sunday, Persian Gulf states pledged some $1.64 billion in aid for Gaza during a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a trade bloc comprising Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman.

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