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Failure to open Israel-Gaza crossing will have ‘disastrous consequences’ – UN official

Failure to open Israel-Gaza crossing will have ‘disastrous consequences’ – UN official

A senior United Nations official today appealed to the Palestinian authorities, Israel and all other parties to take immediate steps to re-open a major crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip to reverse a rapidly worsening economic, humanitarian and political situation.

“Failure to do this will lead to disastrous consequences: an atmosphere of hopelessness and despair in which extremism is likely to take hold,” Filippo Grandi, Deputy Commissioner General of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which cares for millions of Palestinian refugees, told news briefing in Gaza City.

“This is not in the interests of anyone who sincerely seeks a lasting peace, in which the Palestinian people can live in dignity,” he said.

In appealing for the major Karni crossing to be reopened, he was reiterating recent calls from other senior UN officials, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, since closures were imposed after Hamas, which does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, took control of the Strip in June.

Mr. Grandi stressed that because of the closures UNRWA had been forced to halt all its construction projects worth $93 million, as it had been unable to import building supplies in sufficient quantities. “We urgently need to get these into Gaza if we are to avoid a significant worsening of the living conditions of those who have waited months, and even years to have their own homes,” he said.

According to the latest figures from the Palestinian Association of Businessmen, the total accumulative loss to industry in Gaza has reached $23 million dollars since June and if the closures continue at least 120,000 workers in Gaza will lose their jobs, he noted. In the construction sector alone, about $160 million worth of projects have been halted.

Farmers, meanwhile, face a terrible uncertainty with no guarantees that they will be able to export their goods or import such essential materials as fertilizer. “If the agricultural sector is allowed to fail, Gaza will pay a high price,” Mr. Grandi said.

“Let me take this opportunity to issue a grave warning: Gaza risks becoming a virtually 100 per cent aid dependent, closed down and isolated community within a matter of months, or even weeks, if the present regime of closures continues. The window of opportunity in which we can address this most urgent situation is small and fast closing,” he added.

“The fragility and unpredictability of aid, in this highly complex and volatile political situation, is dangerous: particularly in view of the vulnerability of those we serve. And so I issue an appeal but also a warning to all actors involved in the conflict: both political and humanitarian.

“I appeal to the Palestinian authorities, to Israel and all other parties to take immediate steps to open up the Karni Crossing, to imports and exports, as well as humanitarian goods, in compliance with the demands of the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon and of the Quartet. Only this will allow the little that remains of Gaza’s economy to survive.”

The Quartet, comprising the UN, European Union, Russia and United States, has called on Hamas to commit to non-violence, recognize Israel and accept agreements already signed between Israel and the Palestinians. It is sponsoring the so-called Road Map plan aimed at securing a two-State solution to the Middle East conflict, with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace, originally slated for completion by the end of 2005.