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The Gaza Strip is not a very big place. The area of the Gaza Strip is about 139 square miles. This includes a significant amount of farmland and desert open space. It is about twice as wide and twice as long as Manhattan and is similarly densely populated. It is smaller geographically than most U.S. counties; it is smaller than four U.S. survey townships.

As of October 6, 2023, there were about 2.3 million Gazans. Just under half of Gazans are children (the median age there is 19 years old). This is more than 16,500 people per square mile including land that had no residents six months ago, which is a very high level of urban density.

Virtually all of Gaza's ordinary businesses have been interrupted. The vast majority of adults in Gaza are unemployed, or at least not employed in the work that they were employed in six months ago. Gaza has gone six months with essentially no external trade except meager aid shipments. The inventory of a large share of its wholesale and retail businesses has been ruined.

Most Gazans are internally displaced and those who aren't are swamped with displaced people living in tents (or less) all around them. It has no local sources of fuel, and vastly insufficient sources of local food or water to support 2.3 million people.

Gaza's few major roads need major work to be passable for civilian vehicles, and they are littered with burnt out and destroyed vehicles. Most vehicles that aren't destroyed right now aren't functional because they have no fuel.

Gaza City, where most Gazans lived six months ago, is mostly rubble. Hundred of thousands of apartments, many of the hospitals, a large share of all municipal offices, thousands of retail stores and office buildings, countless legitimate utility tunnels (in addition to its illicit Hamas tunnels designed to support military actions), the electrical grid, its telecommunications networks, many water mains, and more have been destroyed.

At this point, for most of Gaza City, the only safe option is to demolish what is left and start over from scratch. This doesn't happen over night. It would take many years to rebuild all of what has been destroyed in the last six months, even with peace and unlimited financing. And, rebuilding Gaza would be a high risk, low return investment opportunity (in a place also rife with corruption) for any private investor.

Given all that has happened in the last six months, how many people could Gaza provide a home to, in remotely tolerable conditions, with perhaps six months of rebuilding, if the fighting stopped tomorrow, some form of local government administration tolerable to Israel and the Gazans was put in place, and significant international reconstruction aid was provided?

How much would that cost?

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    It certainly depends on who's willing to fund what reconstruction and what is Israel willing to allow in in terms building materials etc. Many parts of Syria are still rubble etc. (Yes, I'm aware there was also an earthquake.) Apr 4 at 5:17
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    @thegodsfromengineering I'm asking in terms of a best case scenario in hopes of putting a lower bound on the number of Gazans that it can't support in the near future, no matter what.
    – ohwilleke
    Apr 4 at 5:20
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    And... keep in mind that the food situation was dire and heavily aid dependent before 10/7 already and living conditions abysmal so we are not talking about repairing Beverly Hills back to Beverly Hills standards after an earthquake. That said, I don't see how this Q can be answered with anything but opinions at this point in time. Apr 4 at 7:40
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    Ok, it's worth documenting. At the moment, with so much of potable water and sanitation infrastructure destroyed, depowered, or inaccessible, the figure is probably even lower than a million. Here's a recently dated search result: worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2024/04/02/… ... the report itself: thedocs.worldbank.org/en/doc/…
    – Pete W
    Apr 4 at 23:56
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    From the point of view of financial cost of reconstruction, you'll see from that report it's mostly housing. But from the point of view of making the place habitable under even refugee-camp conditions (eg mass of trailers or something like that), it's the lack of water, sanitation, medicine, energy, and food. From the point of view of viability of a solution..... I can't think of anything good to say, I'm sorry. At the end of the day, the Israeli government does not want Palestinians there, and they have a powerful ally in Washington (notwithstanding occasional token verbal concessions).
    – Pete W
    Apr 5 at 0:07

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how many people could Gaza provide a home to, in remotely tolerable conditions, with perhaps six months of rebuilding

Frame challenge: how is the question even relevant if they can't escape the zone?

In 2021 about 40% of Gazans said they considered leaving it. That number is surely higher now. But it doesn't matter. The powers that be, meaning collectively the other countries don't give them a way out. (The percentage doesn't appear implausible to me--it was similar in Syria polls. And many Syrians did flee--more than half of the population was at least internally displaced, but only about a quarter over their borders. But the Syrians had the physical possibility to leave, although that has become increasingly difficult for them too.)

So, the Gazans can [just] move their tents around, as Netanyahu put it.

FWTW, it's been mentioned in one comment that the World Bank estimates it would take $18.5 billion to rebuild Gaza. Egypt's president, on the other hand, estimated that it would take $90 billion. Whether there's some political agenda behind those discrepancies, or just an honest difference in methodology/assumptions, I cannot quite say right now.

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    I suppose the relevance is to have a clear idea of the magnitude of the irreversible harm that is now "baked in". To a badly jaded observer like me, it's near total. At the risk of speculating, I have to figure Egypt may well be pushed hard to let them enter at some point, after the body count becomes intolerable for third parties, and the pressure on the Gazan population is so intense that practically nobody would stay. If such a thing happened, I doubt the current Israeli government would object.
    – Pete W
    Apr 5 at 0:56
  • I think the Q is asking for a more charitable assessment of the current moment, that presumes a settlement of the conflict and good faith effort to recover
    – Pete W
    Apr 5 at 0:59
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    @ohwilleke: FWTW, Egypt's president says rebuilding Gaza would take $90 billion, far in excess of what the World Bank says ($18B). So, do you think he's pressuring himself there, or just trying to convince his own public to take the Gazans in? I personally think time will. Apr 5 at 5:43
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    Egypt's president, on the other hand, estimated that it would take $90 billion. - Egyptian estimates are understandably higher, since they include baksheesh. Regarding people living - yes, one needs a physical possibility, but there is also the question of documents and paying the necessary fees/bribes. Those who left Gaza by now are mostly holders of foreign passports (at least Egyptian ones.) Apr 5 at 10:04
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    Regarding the estimates, I wonder what 1-1.5 million people's worth of basic homes plus restoration of infrastructure and property/equipment for services would cost today in the region. The $18B would put it at $15000 a person, which seems very efficient, especially considering (as the Q points out) that it would have to be done in an expedited and surged mode of construction.
    – Pete W
    Apr 5 at 14:28

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