Situation in Gaza – 25 May 2021 Daily Press Briefing – (Excerpts)



TUESDAY, 25 MAY 2021


Today, COVID-9 vaccines from the COVAX facility were dispatched to Gaza, through the Erez crossing, with the support of the Israeli authorities. This crossing is also open for international humanitarian staff. However, it remained closed to Palestinian travellers since 11 May, including to humanitarian personnel and those with medical referrals for treatment not available in Gaza.

The Kerem Shalom crossing is open for the passage of humanitarian goods. And today, we are happy to report that two UNRWA trucks carrying 38 metric tonnes of food provided by the World Food Programme were able to pass into Gaza.

The Rafah crossing, which is in the south between Gaza and Egypt was also open in both directions yesterday, allowing for the entry of some humanitarian aid from bilateral partners. We understand that supplies from Egypt, Kuwait and others are being channelled through Rafah. We understand that the flow of Egyptian-imported supplies including fuel continues at a stable pace.

We reiterate the need for all crossings into Gaza to be opened and stay open. This is essential for the entrance of humanitarian supplies, including fuel for basic services and supplies to curb the spread of COVID-19 virus. Opening the crossings will also ensure the exit of patients who need life-saving treatment and the crossing of Palestinian humanitarian personnel who are critical to the response.


Questions and Answers


Question:  Thanks, Steph.  Two questions for you today.  First one, US re-opening Jerusalem consulate, upgrading… effectively upgrading ties with Palestinians, does the SG welcome this?  Or do you…

Spokesman:  I mean, whether or not it’s actually happened, I’ve seen the reports of the intent to happen.  If it does happen, we do think it is a positive step.


Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  I have two questions also.  My first question is about the UNRWA director in Gaza.  His name is Matthias Schmale.  His last name is spelled as S-c-h…

Spokesman:  I know who he… Abdelhamid, I know who he is.

Question:  Yeah.  He gave an interview on the 23rd to Israeli Channel 12 in which he said that Israel… he believes that there was huge sophistication in the way that Israeli military struck over the last 11 days, and he said they tried to avoid civilians.  And that has generated condemnation from many Palestinian groups and human rights.

How he could say that the Israeli were trying to avoid civilians when the family of… just one family of Abu Hatab, nine of them were killed, including seven children and two women, and another building lost 43 civilians, and he… UN staff goes on Israeli channel and says Israel was trying to avoid civilians and they were targeted with sophistication and precision.  Is that your views or UN views…?  [cross talk]

Spokesman:  Abdelhamid, I have not seen the interview.  What I can tell you is that I know Matthias has stood side by side with the Palestine refugees that UNRWA serves for a long time, especially during the 11 days of the conflict.  He is a dedicated UN staff member.  He is a true humanitarian from what I know of him, and I would encourage people to read the whole interview.  But if you’re looking for clarifications, I would check with UNRWA.

Question:  I do need because the way you said it, I mean, it was like defending him statement, which is… [cross talk]

Spokesman:  No, I’m defending him because I know him.  Okay.  Your second question?


Question:  Yes.  What specific steps is the United Nations taking to ensure that any reconstruction materials that are going into Gaza do not end up in the hands of Hamas or other Palestinian terrorists to be used for rebuilding their rocket or other… arsenal or other weaponry?

Spokesman:  Look, for the aid that we bring in, we distribute it ourselves.


Question:  Who… distribute it.  Who do you distribute it to?  It’s distributed… [cross talk]

Spokesman:  People… we are… I mean, our focus right now is on immediate humanitarian help, food, COV… basic supplies and vaccines.  Those are usually being done through the existing UNRWA facilities and as well as other UN agencies.

Célhia, and then we’ll go back.

Question:  [United States] Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken is today in the Middle East.  He met with Benjamin Netanyahu.  He’s going to meet with the Palestinian Authority and the civil society.  What are the hopes of restarting some sort of negotiation or talks to try to bring back the Quartet and the two-State solution, to make it more clear now that the new Administration is more open to that?

Spokesman:  Well, it’s… I think as the Secretary-General said, we were very much… we welcome the ceasefire.  We very much hope the parties will be… will use it as an opportunity to move forward, and we hope that the involvement of not only the United Nations, but others will push everybody in that same direction.


Question:  Thank you.  Going back to Gaza, apart from the emergency aid that you were talking about, yesterday there was a briefing by the Department of State.  And they say that their objective… one of the objectives of Secretary Blinken’s visit is to create a mechanism, a partnership between the UN and the Palestinian Authority in order to distribute the aid to rebuild Gaza, not just the emergency, and make sure they… do you have any information about how they…

Spokesman:  Well, first of all, we expect the launch of our humanitarian appeal to be on Thursday.  Just for your planning, we expect a briefing by Lynn Hastings, our Humanitarian Coordinator, to be piped into here, I think, 9 a.m. on Thursday.

(I think somebody has a microphone open besides me, and that’s not good.  Thank you.)

And once the appeal is launched, we’ll have more detail on the mechanics, but we, obviously, very much welcome the United States’ backing of the UN’s humanitarian and longer-term efforts.


Question:  Yes, please.  Thank you.  So, Stéphane, we see that in Aqsa Mosque area in East Jerusalem, the incidents are back to be a daily scene now, clashes between Palestinian protests and worshippers and Israeli forces.  And a number of Palestinians have been detained as well, after the ceasefire.  What’s your message on that?  I have another question.

Spokesman:  Our message is that we’re, obviously, very concerned about these incidents.  We’re watching what’s going on, on the… around the Old City.  It’s very important that there be calm around holy sites and that people be free to worship in peace.


For information media. Not an official record.

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