Israel re-opens crossings to Gaza, but UN stresses need for much greater access

Food awaiting distribution in UNRWA warehouse

28 January 2009 – Israel today reopened crossings into Gaza that it had closed yesterday following a bomb attack along the border that killed a soldier, but the top United Nations official in Gaza stressed that access remained a problem with thousands of tons of generously donated aid sitting in Egypt, Jordan and the ports of Israel.

“That aid should be right here, right now, helping the people who need it,” the Director of Operations in Gaza for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), John Ging, said. While Israel has allowed increased shipments of basic commodities with 120 truckloads getting in on good days, the normal daily requirement is a minimum of 500.

Mr. Ging noted that the number of people receiving UN food aid in Gaza following Israel’s devastating three-week offensive against Hamas had now gone up to 900,000. The growing number of aid-dependent Palestinians is due to the lack of an economy in Gaza, as well as the recent damage and destruction, he said.

UNRWA is distributing millions of dollars of cash assistance to those who have had their houses damaged and need temporary shelters, he added.

The Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) reported that the Kerem Shalom crossing, the Karni grain conveyor belt and the Nahal Oz fuel pipeline all re-opened today.

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes yesterday called on Israel to immediately open up crossing points into Gaza for full access for massive relief aid and reconstruction supplies.

“Israel has a particular responsibility as the occupying power in this context, because of its control of Gaza’s borders with Israel, to respect the relevant provisions of international humanitarian law,” he told the Security Council, stressing that improving the living conditions of Gaza’s 1.5 million people was vital to avoid further despair and undermining the two-State diplomatic solution to the decades-old Middle East conflict.

Israel’s offensive, launched with the stated aim of ending Hamas rocket attacks against it, is estimated to have killed some 1,300 Palestinians, and injured more than 5,300 others, 34 per cent of them children, and destroyed or badly damaged 21,000 homes.


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