As winter’s rigours descend on Gaza, UN calls on Israel yet again to open crossings

9 November 2009

The United Nations and its non-governmental organization (NGO) partners today called yet again on Israel to immediately open crossings into the Gaza Strip to give Palestinians access to desperately needed materials, especially in view of the coming winter and rainy season.

“The winter will be particularly hard on the children of Gaza, whose capacity to withstand the rigours of a cold, wet winter has already been severely undermined by a marked deterioration of basic services and descent into poverty,” the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Maxwell Gaylard, said in a news release, the latest of countless UN appeals to reopen the crossings since Israel’s three-week war against Hamas last winter.

“With winter rains and cold weather now imminent, the people of Gaza are even more desperately in need of construction materials such as cement, roofing tiles and glass to build and repair homes destroyed and damaged in the Israeli military offensive of 2008-2009, as well as of regular supplies of fuel, electricity and clean water.”

More than two years of blockade since Hamas seized control of Gaza coupled with widespread destruction resulting from the war have caused severe damage to the homes, roads and utilities, including tens of thousands of homes damaged or destroyed, deterioration and further damage to already fragile and overloaded water, sanitation and electricity distribution networks, and a marked fall-off in the quality of essential services, the release said.

“Intensive discussions which the United Nations has conducted with the Government of Israel for the resumption of suspended building projects, which would provide much-needed housing and social services for the people of Gaza, have not yet yielded any positive outcome,” it added.

Nearly 1,400 Gazans were killed and more than 5,000 injured during the three-week offensive, which Israel says it launched to stop thousands of rockets fired by Hamas and other Palestinian militants into southern Israel.

The fighting left communities, families and children fearful and traumatized, many of them living in ruins, virtually destitute, and relying increasingly on the UN and its humanitarian partners for daily sustenance. Over 3,530 homes were destroyed, more than 2,850 severely damaged and 52,900 suffering minor damage. Without repair, winter winds and rain will render damaged homes uninhabitable, the release warned.

Mr. Gaylard and the NGOs called on the Israeli Government to allow in urgently-needed construction and repair materials, adequate supplies of industrial fuel for electricity generation, and essential items for the proper functioning of water and sanitation systems.

“The people of Gaza share with everyone else the right to dignified lives, free of indiscriminate and prolonged suffering. They should not be subjected to this continuation of collective punishment brought on by the blockade, Mr. Gaylard said.

 

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