Original source: The Egyptian president opened an international donors’ conference on Monday that aims to raise $3 billion (£2.1bn) for the decimated Gaza Strip.

Hosni Mubarak told the gathering, which included French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and 45 foreign ministers, that the ‘priority is to reach a truce between Israel and Palestinians.’

But representatives from Gaza’s democratically elected Hamas administration were not invited.

Mr Mubarak said that Cairo was trying to get Israel to ‘modify its position on reaching a truce,’ referring to Israel’s position that it will only respect a long-term truce and reopen Gaza’s border crossings if Hamas releases a captured Israeli soldier.

Mr Abbas’s Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has prepared a 53-page reconstruction plan for the donors, including detailed damage assessments.

For example, fixing war damage to infrastructure and homes would cost $501 million (£357m), according to the plan, which states that 4,036 homes were destroyed and 11,514 damaged.

Mr Fayyad said that, with open borders and sufficient aid, reconstruction could begin in six weeks. He wants most of the aid to be funnelled through his West Bank-based government.

Mr Fayyad already administers huge sums of foreign aid – $7.7 billion (£5.5bn) for 2008-10.

Hamas spokesmen Fawzi Barhoum said on Monday from Gaza that Hamas welcomes ‘any effort to help rebuild this area after the mass destruction caused by the zionist war machine.’

Mr Barhoum called on the conference in Egypt to work out ‘meaningful mechanisms to transfer the funds to the Palestinian people directly, without going into the internal Palestinian political differences.’

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