Gaza: situation at border crossings ‘intolerable,’ Ban says

trucks being unloaded at the Kerem Shalom Crossing

10 March 2009 – A lasting ceasefire was urgently needed to keep Gaza crossings open, which will allow the Palestinian economy to recover, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.

In a message to a UN seminar on assistance to the Palestinian people in Cairo, Mr. Ban called for a “proper and durable” end of hostilities to “allow for a return of calm” to Gaza and southern Israel.

“The situation at the crossings is intolerable,” he said, stressing the need for Israel to ease the closure.

The overall humanitarian situation in Gaza remains unchanged, according to an update from the office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory.

Last week, more than 700 trucks loaded with food, cleaning supplies, medicine and other supplies entered the area, up from fewer than 600 truckloads the previous week.

The update pointed to problems, including livestock, vehicles and construction materials not being allowed to enter Gaza, as well as two shipments of UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) t-shirts bound for 50 schools in disadvantaged areas being denied entry.

In another instance over 700 packets of washing powder, part of a non-governmental organization’s hygiene kits, were not allowed into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing for missing an ‘environmental certificate,’ even though an identical load was granted entry the week earlier.

Only one-quarter of Gazans’ cooking gas needs are being met, and just over two-thirds of the industrial gas needed to operate the power plant are being allowed in.

The Humanitarian Coordinator also pointed to the need for a dependable influx of cash to resuscitate Gaza’s private sector and prevent aid dependence.

On top of the almost $10 million in cash aid that the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has recently made available, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) will begin meting out cash next to refugee families whose homes were either destroyed or damaged by the recent hostilities.

The funds are intended to support them until construction materials are allowed in and repairs can proceed. In the meantime, UNICEF has been repairing school windows using nylon sheets.

In his address today to the Cairo seminar, the Secretary-General also stressed the need for Palestinian reconciliation to further reconstruction and development in Gaza.

“I strongly urge Palestinians to find unity and common ground,” according to the message delivered by Karen AbuZayd, Commissioner-General for UNRWA.

The support of the region’s leaders will be essential for any future agreements, Mr. Ban said, also voicing hope that the new Israeli Government will respect earlier commitments, take part in political negotiations and reach a peace accord with the Palestinians.

“Only a permanent negotiated political settlement, which ends the occupation, can provide a sustainable solution to the economic and humanitarian problems of the Palestinian people and lasting security for Israel.”


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