The most recent ceasefire in Gaza appears to be holding but unless the underlying causes of the conflict are addressed, another round of violence and vengeance is almost guaranteed, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today warned.
Speaking to journalists at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Mr. Ban pointed to a lack of political will as the reason that a durable and sustained ceasefire has not yet been reached.
“They have not been listening to the voices of the international community and concerns raised by myself as the Secretary-General and many world leaders in the region and around the world,” he said. “In the name of protecting their own people, they have been letting their people be killed by others. Is that what they have to do?”
The latest 72-hours humanitarian ceasefire, brokered by Egypt, is due to expire tomorrow.
“This is almost the last chance for them. They have a very limited time,” Mr. Ban noted.
In the meantime, humanitarian partners are addressing urgent needs. Nearly 2,000 Palestinians were killed in the month-long fighting, almost 75 per cent of them civilians, according to preliminary information. On the Israeli side, at least 67 people were killed.
The number of Palestinian deaths includes 459 children. That figure is higher than the number of children killed in Gaza in the previous two conflicts combined, Mr. Ban said.
Mr. Ban said that while Israel's duty to protect its citizens from rocket attacks by Hamas and other threats is unquestionable, the fighting has raised serious concerns about Israel's respect for the principles of distinction and proportionality.
“Reports of militant activity does not justify jeopardizing the lives and safety of many thousands of innocent civilians,” he noted.
Among the sites repeatedly shelled where UN schools serving as shelters. The UN chief has called for an investigation and for accountability.
While the displacement numbers of people sheltering in schools and other facilities remains fluid, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) reported that 209,522 people are still sheltering in 88 UNRWA schools in the area.
At least 100,000 people have had homes destroyed or severely damaged, Mr. Ban said. In addition, most of the households have little or no water supply.
Meanwhile, hospitals meant to cope with disaster are themselves “disaster zones,” the UN chief said. Read moreabout the current state of health care facilities and infrastructure in Gaza.
Mr. Ban stressed that the Organization will work with regional and international actors to rebuild.
“The international community is going to have a donor conference again on an emergency basis. Now we are going to rebuild,” he said. “Are they going to destroy it again?”
Speaking in the General Assembly last week, Mr. Ban expressed anger at the cycle of building and destruction in the region.
“I thought that this should be the last chance – the last chance,” he underscored in today's speech.