Matthias Burchard, Chief of the Geneva Liaison Office of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East Agency (UNRWA), said that as journalists were aware, the recent Israeli military incursions in Gaza had ended after 17 days. It had started following rocket attacks into Israel coming from Gaza which had killed four Israelis. UNRWA had completed a first initial assessment of the damage. There would be additional damage assessments carried out by the Palestinian Authority. This had been the largest IDF incursion into the Gaza strip by UNRWA's estimates since the start of this intifada. It had involved 200 armoured vehicles who had put 36,000 Palestinians in the northern Gaza strip directly under siege. Some 4,000 had had to flee their homes. There had been wide-spread destruction of public and private property, including 8 school buildings of UNRWA. Some 107 Palestinians and five Israelis had died, among them nine UNRWA pupils and two teachers. More than 431 Palestinians had been injured.
Mr. Burchard said that since the start of the present intifada, UNRWA in the West Bank and Gaza had lost 11 staff members, 151 pupils (45 alone in the past year), and 1,539 pupils had been injured. UNRWA understood Israel's right and obligation to protect its citizens, but this could not alleviate Israel's obligation under international law to refrain from using heavy military equipment in densely populated areas and to observe the proportionality of force. The 2004 Emergency Appeal was only funded by 45 per cent, and the situation in Gaza was straining the agency to the utmost. He urgently appealed to the international community to assist. Ending on a positive note, Mr. Burchard said that the UN family had moved in swiftly to provide assistance in Gaza after the IDF withdrew its forces. The UNRWA emergency food distribution to more than 600,000 refugees had been able to resume since Israel finally allowed 300 food containers to enter during the last 10 days. Copies of UNRWA's Gaza Field assessment of the Israeli operation were available at the back of the room.