United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon departed Kuwait for Israel, via Jordan, early in the morning of Tuesday, 20 January.
Upon arrival, he met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, with whom he expressed his relief that Israel had declared a unilateral ceasefire, and stressed the importance of putting a framework in place to ensure a durable and sustainable end to violence. In a statement issued by his Spokesperson, a visit to Gaza that day was announced, and that the Secretary-General would use his time there to assure the people of Gaza that the United Nations would provide urgent humanitarian assistance and would help in starting the “challenging process of reconstruction”. (See Press Release SG/SM/12054)
He then travelled to Gaza by road, where he met with representatives of civil society and United Nations staff. At a press conference at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine and the Near East (UNRWA) compound, still smouldering from being shelled days before, the Secretary-General exclaimed at how “deeply grieved” he was that day after viewing the “heartbreaking scenes”.
He told reporters that what is needed is to restore a basic respect for civilians. He said that “where civilians have been killed, there has to be a thorough investigation, full explanations and, where it is required, accountability”.
He also appealed to the Palestinian people for unity. He appealed to Fatah, Hamas, all Palestinian factions, to reunite within the framework of the legitimate Palestinian Authority.
He said he believed that a massive and united international effort is required to help Palestinians achieve statehood and that he is “more determined than ever to see this achieved”.
He then travelled to Sderot in southern Israel, where he met with Mayor David Bouskila and spoke to the press. He told the people of Sderot that he would continue to work with them and with their leaders to ensure that a comprehensive political solution to all issues is finally achieved.
The Secretary-General departed Israel for New York late on Tuesday night, wrapping up a visit to the Middle East that had taken him to Egypt, Jordan, Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Kuwait.