Qatar says ready to rebuild war-battered Gaza

Qatar says ready to rebuild war-battered Gaza

Doha (AFP) - Key Hamas backer Qatar hailed a Tuesday ceasefire that ended seven weeks of conflict in and around Gaza and offered to throw its huge gas earnings behind reconstruction efforts.

Qatar, which hosts the Palestinian Islamist movement's exiled leader Khaled Meshaal, paid tribute to the "resistance and the sacrifices" of the Palestinians in 50 days of conflict with Israel.

It said it was "ready to contribute to the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip as soon as possible," without giving any figure.

The ceasefire deal agreed on Tuesday between a Palestinian delegation, including Hamas, and Israel provides for a simultaneous opening of border crossings to aid and reconstruction supplies.

The head of the 57-member Islamic bloc welcomed Tuesday's ceasefire and expressed hope it would lead to a resumption of Middle East peace negotiations, broken off earlier this year despite desperate US mediation efforts.

The ceasefire must present a first step towards "restarting negotiations to achieve a just and comprehensive peace agreement," said Organisation of Islamic Cooperation secretary general Iyad Madani.

The conflict, which began on July 8 when Israel launched Operation Protective Edge in a bid to stamp out cross-border rocket fire, cost the lives of 2,143 Palestinians and 70 on the Israeli side.