Nine mosques that were destroyed by the Israelis in a military offensive launched on the blockaded Gaza Strip in 2014 have been rebuilt in a project initiated by Turkey's Religious Affairs Presidency Foundation and will officially be opened next month, Turkish authorities announced yesterday.
The opening of the mosques marks the completion of a reconstruction project announced by the Turkish foundation last year that cost an estimated $4.5 million.
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Religious Endowments, 64 mosques were destroyed and 150 others partially damaged during Israel's deadly military offensive in 2014. The Israeli army pounded the blockaded Gaza Strip with airstrikes, military assaults and used warships in the Mediterranean for seven weeks to pursue the ostensible aim of intercepting Palestinian rocket fire.
The project includes the Hasan al-Banna Mosque where 10 people were killed in Israeli gunfire and the Safa Mosque, a place of worship built in the 1940s that was also destroyed during the 2014 offensive. More than 2,150 Palestinians were killed and thousands injured during the offensive, which left a vast majority of Gaza's critical infrastructure in ruins, most of which has yet to be rebuilt.
The Gaza Strip is controlled by a Hamas-led regime and relations with Turkey have improved in recent years, despite the Palestinian state being unrecognized by Israel. Turkey plays a major role in rebuilding Gaza by delivering humanitarian aid and coordinating projects to boost the economy, which has suffered under the blockade, including the foreseen construction of residential buildings and a 200-bed hospital. The Turkish authorities recently unveiled a $13 million project to build 320 housing units in the Gaza Strip for Palestinians who lost their homes during the 2014 offensive.
Turkey is pioneering efforts for the construction of new mosques in countries populated by Muslim minorities. The Presidency of Religious Affairs Foundation is at the forefront of Turkish mosque projects, having built more than 100 mosques and religious education centers in 25 countries so far. Current construction projects include 19 mosques being built in 11 countries as well as 10 others planned for construction in nine countries. Most recently, the foundation inaugurated a Soviet-era mosque rebuilt from the ground up in the Belarussian capital of Minsk on Nov. 11.
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