1 May 2009 – The top United Nations envoy to the Middle East has urged better access for essential items to enter Gaza, stressing that the humanitarian and early recovery situation there nearly four months after the end of Israel’s military offensive is “alarming” and shows no real progress.
During a visit to Gaza yesterday, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry was informed of the difficulties facing families, businesses and civic groups as they try to move forward after the offensive, which Israel launched on 27 December with the stated aim of ending rocket attacks by Hamas and other groups.
At least 1,300 Palestinians were killed in the three-week operation and some 5,300 wounded, while homes, schools, hospitals and marketplaces were reduced to rubble.
“The situation is really alarming – fulfilling the humanitarian needs and beginning early recovery is impossible without the adequate entry of fuel, cash and materials needed for the repairs of damaged or destroyed homes, schools, clinics and other urgent infrastructure repairs,” stated Mr. Serry. “Better access is crucial.”
UN humanitarian chief John Holmes stressed the same point yesterday, noting that while donors have pledged money, the flow of goods is “wholly inadequate and reconstruction is almost impossible.”
Roughly 75 per cent of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents require assistance, but even the most essential imports are subject to intense limitations by Israeli authorities, he pointed out in an opinion piece published in the European Voice (Brussels).
Mr. Serry added that “time is passing and there is no real progress.” Noting that tens of thousands of Gazans whose homes were hit in the conflict now face a sweltering summer in unacceptable conditions without proper shelter, he stressed the urgent need to begin rebuilding and repairing homes.
The envoy also warned that the underlying political issues need to be addressed. “In the absence of real progress on issues like Palestinian reconciliation, open crossings, secure borders and prisoner exchanges, the potential for renewed violence is ever present.
“That would be disastrous for people in Gaza as well as Southern Israel. We’ve got to change this dynamic, with political progress, and with practical results on the ground,” he stated.