Question of Palestine home || Permalink || About UNISPAL || Search

About the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People

Bulletin mensuel de la DDP - Vol. XXIX, No.8 - Bulletin du Comité pour l’exercice des droits inaliénables du peuple palestinien/DDP (août 2006) - Publié par la Division des droits palestiniens Français

Español
Follow UNISPAL RSS Twitter

Source: Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR)
Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP)
31 August 2006



August 2006

Volume XXIX, Bulletin No. 8


Bulletin
on action by the United Nations system and
intergovernmental organizations
relevant to the question of Palestine



Contents
Page
I.
    UNICEF Special Representative in Occupied Palestinian Territory issues statement
1
II.
    United Nations humanitarian agencies issue statement on the situation in the Gaza Strip
1
III.
    The United Nations Fund for Women issues urgent call for an end to Middle East violence
4
IV.
    UNRWA Deputy Commissioner-General expresses dismay about the effect of violence on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip
5
V.
    Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs briefs Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question
6
VI.
    UNRWA issues a statement on the effect of lack of access upon children in the Gaza Strip
8
VII.
    UNDP issues report on the assessment of damages caused by the Israel Defense Forces operations in the Gaza Strip from 26 June until 28 August 2006
9
VIII.
    World Food Programme warns of the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip
10
IX.
    Secretary-General supports a Palestinian national unity government during his visit to the Middle East
11




The Bulletin can be found in the United Nations Information System
on the Question of Palestine (UNISPAL) on the Internet at:
http://domino.un.org/unispal.nsf, or at:
http://www.un.org/Depts/dpa/qpal/pub_bltn.htm.




I. UNICEF SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE IN OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN
TERRITORY ISSUES STATEMENT

The following statement was issued on 1 August 2006 by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Special Representative in the Occupied Palestinian Territory:

As the international media is focused on the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Lebanon, sadly enough the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is on the verge of being forgotten. For the 1.44 million Palestinians living in Gaza, out of which 838,000 are children, the humanitarian situation is a daily reality.

Having just returned from Gaza, it is clear that children are living in an environment of extraordinary violence, fear and anxiety. Over the last month, some 35 Palestinian children were killed in Gaza, almost a quarter of whom were less than 10 years old. This figure brings the total number of Palestinian children killed this year owing to the conflict in West Bank and Gaza to 65 children. These figures are the second highest since the beginning of the current crisis in September 2000. This year one Israeli child was killed, bringing the total to 66 children. Since the beginning of the Intifada, the total number of children killed is 912, out of which 119 are Israeli children.

Given the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, UNICEF is stepping up its support in health, education, water and sanitation, psychosocial counseling, and activities for adolescents and younger children. UNICEF reminds all parties that all children have rights, including those to health, water, education and protection. These rights must be safeguarded irrespective of the environment they happen to live in. Protection of civilians including children, as per the Fourth Geneva Convention, is an obligation under international humanitarian law.

II. UNITED NATIONS HUMANITARIAN AGENCIES ISSUE STATEMENT
ON THE SITUATION IN THE GAZA STRIP

On 3 August 2006, the United Nations humanitarian agencies working in the Occupied Palestinian Territory issued a statement expressing their concern about the alarming situation of continued violence that was impacting Palestinians and Palestinian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. The following is the statement (IHA/1209, PAL/2058, SAG/405):

The United Nations humanitarian agencies working in the Occupied Palestinian Territory are deeply alarmed by the impact continuing violence is having on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza, which has resulted in a sharp decline in the humanitarian situation facing 1.4 million people, more than half of them children. We are concerned that with international attention focusing on Lebanon, the tragedy in Gaza is being forgotten. We estimate that since 28 June, 175 Palestinians have been killed, including approximately 40 children and 8 women, and over 620 injured in the Gaza Strip. One IDF soldier has been killed and 25 Israelis have been injured, including 11 Israelis injured by home-made rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. Palestinians have fired on average between 8 and 9 homemade rockets per day towards Israel (319 in total) and the Israeli military has fired on average 200 to 250 artillery shells per day into the Gaza Strip and conducted at least 220 aerial bombings. The latest IDF incursion in the area around the Gaza Airport overnight has left eight Palestinians dead, including a 12- year-old girl, and 20 injured. UNRWA estimates that at least 475 families have fled their homes in the area and are now being sheltered in an UNRWA school in nearby Rafah.

Under international humanitarian law, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, all parties to the conflict are obliged to protect civilians during hostilities. Parties must exercise precaution and respect the principle of proportionality in all military operations to prevent unnecessary suffering among the civilian population. The shelling of sites with alleged military significance that result invariably in the killing of civilians, among them an increasing number of children, cannot be justified. All parties are urged to bear in mind that international law demands accountability and that individual criminal responsibility may be engaged for violations of international humanitarian law.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) reports an increasing number of displaced Palestinians as a result of the continuous shelling and violence in the Gaza Strip. UNRWA is currently sheltering 1,345 people from 289 families in four schools in the northern district of Jabalia. Almost all are refugees, fleeing the relentless shelling of the eastern edge of the neighboring town of Beit Hanoun and the area around the Al Nada housing estate in Beit Lahia. In addition to shelter, UNRWA is providing the families with daily food parcels and medical care.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) UN facilities as well as large tracts of agricultural land have been damaged during continuing IDF ground incursions. The United Nations office, including OCHA’s in Gaza was ransacked by Palestinian demonstrators on 30 July 2006. In addition, access and movement in and out of Gaza remain key concerns. While the Karni crossing has opened for humanitarian supplies and some commercial imports, it remains closed for exports. In addition, the Rafah crossing for passengers has remained closed, and the Erez crossing opens intermittently. These closures have significantly affected the ability of Gazans to obtain essential medical care not available in Gaza. OCHA reports that the Israeli security forces have instituted a new policy: telephoning Palestinian families to evacuate their homes before launching air strikes. This phenomenon is causing panic to entire Palestinian neighbourhoods. In addition, Palestinian households have been receiving just 6 to 8 hours of electric supply per day since the Israeli bombing of Gaza’s only electric power plant.

The World Food Programme (WFP) reports that the shelling and violence is not only harming agriculture, but also contributing to a further reduction in people’s purchasing power, prompting increased dependency on food aid. The main staples for Palestinians - wheat flour and sugar - remain in short supply with prices 15 per cent and 33 per cent respectively higher than in January this year. The harvest is being disrupted by problems at the Ministry of Agriculture, where staff have not been paid since January, combined with considerable losses of land, assets and a lack of fertilizers. To support the nutrition of the most vulnerable non-refugee population in Gaza during at this critical time, WFP is increasing the number of people it feeds from 160,000 people to 220,000 people monthly.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the targeting of Gaza’s vital infrastructures, particularly the destruction of the only domestic power plant, has triggered a chain reaction of lack of power, scarcity of fuel for generators and water shortage, thus causing a serious threat to people’s health and harming the functioning of the entire health system. Provisional measures to avert the crisis are being set up by the local institutions and the international community. The “Temporary International Mechanism” - among others - shall address emergency needs of the health sector, providing medical supplies, fuel, and allowances for health workers. Of further concern is the lack of access to health care in Egypt and Jordan owing to Rafah border’s total and prolonged closure. WHO continues monitoring the situation to identify early warning signs of crisis in the health system and health status of the Palestinian people.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is concerned about declining incomes in the farming and fishing sectors. With the recent imposition of severe fishing restrictions, boats are not leaving port, thus crippling the industry (as well as the income of some 35,000 people) and resulting in the absence of fish on the local market. Declining cash incomes and dwindling international aid is impairing the ability of producers to acquire seeds, fertilizer, spare parts for greenhouses, irrigation facilities and fishing boat maintenance. There is an acute emergency owing to the lack of fuel to operate water wells. Many orchards and fruit trees could be lost for ever, while the shortage of vegetables may exacerbate nutritional imbalances.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) some 838,000 Palestinian children living in Gaza are bearing the brunt of disproportionate shelling and attacks. Shortages and closures make it virtually impossible to deliver quality care, while simultaneously fueling the conditions for outbreaks of communicable disease, which hits children hardest. Of the approximately 40 Palestinian children killed in Gaza in since 28 June, almost a quarter were under 10 years old. Since the beginning of 2006, 69 children have died owing to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including one Israeli child. Given the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, UNICEF is stepping up its support in health, education, water and sanitation, psychosocial counseling, and recreational activities for adolescents and younger children.

The United Nations Population Fund, (UNFPA) reports that the shelling and violence in Gaza has impaired the access of civilians, especially women, to life-saving services such as emergency obstetric care. UNFPA is deeply concerned about the recent shelling that damaged health facilities and restricted access to reproductive health services, especially ante-natal and post-natal care. Further, access for health care providers to reach their place of work has been jeopardized, particularly in areas of heavy shelling and military closure. Since the beginning of the violence, UNFPA has continuously supported procurement of essential items for the delivery of health care, including disposables, supplies, drugs and equipment to the Ministry of Health, particularly those related to maternal and women's health.

The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) is extremely alarmed over the situation in Gaza Strip. Ever since the beginning of the Israeli latest incursion over the Gaza Strip which started at on 28 June 2006, Palestinians have been a target for the Israeli army’s multiple shelling and bombing which resulted in 175 people being killed of which at least eight are women. Being a vulnerable group, women have lost their own lives, their husbands, brothers, fathers and children’s lives and have been badly injured and traumatized; in addition to the destruction of people’s homes, sources of income and infrastructure. With the continuation of this situation, the devastation of women’s lives and their psychological wellbeing will become permanent and any efforts to redeem these effects will become futile. As a rapid response, UNIFEM has launched an emergency intervention program of outreach psychological counseling for women across Gaza with the help of the Gaza Community mental health program. The Fund will also launch another food security initiative for rural women to lend a helping hand in this hard economic situation.

These facts speak for themselves. Closures must be lifted, bearing in mind Israel’s legitimate security concerns. Gaza must be given back the capacity to export its goods. Both the Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza and the disproportionate shelling by the IDF must stop. The United Nations stands firmly by its commitments to uphold the dignity of the Israelis and the people of Gaza - and the right of both sides to live in peace and security.

III. THE UNITED NATIONS FUND FOR WOMEN ISSUES URGENT CALL
FOR AN END TO MIDDLE EAST VIOLENCE

On 3 August 2006, the United Nations Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Executive Director Noeleen Heyzer issued a statement calling for an immediate cessation to the hostilities and the protection of civilians. The following is the text of the statement:

“The bombing of cities, roads and water systems unfortunately targets civilians - they are the ones who cannot hide, cannot escape and cannot defend themselves,” she said. “They invariably include large numbers of women and their children. Every day we see this in Lebanon, as bombs hit those trying to flee, buildings collapse on those hiding in basements afraid to leave home.”

She called for an end to attacks, a ceasefire, and protection measures. The international community must then make a serious and concerted effort to ensure the longer-term security of all of the region’s people. She noted that the political vacuum resulting from the lack of a sovereign Palestinian State “is fuelling the violence and empowering those with no stake in the peace process.”

She warned that if the violence continues, there is a threat of regional escalation and total political collapse. She called for a negotiated, two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict involving all stakeholders, including those on both sides who are reaching across borders to call for such a solution. “Among them also must be women, who are critical to all aspects of peacebuilding and security,” she said.

“This may be the last chance to bring about a sustainable peace for all people in the region".

IV. UNRWA DEPUTY COMMISSIONER-GENERAL EXPRESSES DISMAY
ABOUT THE EFFECT OF VIOLENCE ON PALESTINIANS
IN THE GAZA STRIP

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Deputy Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi, visited some of the hardest hit areas of the Gaza Strip on 13 August 2006. Addressing the media at a press conference in the Karni industrial zone, Mr. Grandi said among others:

“This morning I visited an UNRWA school and some families that had been affected by the violence. I have now seen examples on the impact of violence on civilians. And I am dismayed by having seen how people have been affected by violence - in their daily life, in the lives of their children and in their economic life.

“I understand that the reports are that the level of violence has decreased in the last five days and this is good. But it is not enough. It is not enough because first of all the violence has to stop completely. That is the first appeal I would like to make, arriving here in Gaza looking at what has happened. Second, we have to look ahead. This was the question I was asking our friends here at the industrial zone: What is next if violence ends?

“The people of Lebanon have suffered for one month in a terrible way. The whole world has seen this on TV. What I want to say to you is that people here in Gaza have suffered in the same way for two months - twice the duration of the the most recent suffering in Lebanon. And it is not finished yet. The whole world has appealed for a cease fire in Lebanon. It is necessary that the whole world now concentrates on Gaza and seeks peace here and in the region.

“If violence stops there are other things to be done. This industrial zone has to be working again. Otherwise reconstruction will be unsustainable in Gaza.

“The crossings have to be open, not only for imports but also for exports. The Rafah border crossing has to be functioning as it was functioning for several months recently. Gaza has to get rid of its two diseases: one is violence and the second is being like a prison. We also continue to be worried about the issue of salary payments. From our perspective, the humanitarian perspective, we are concerned that it will continue to affect civilians. I was glad to visit an UNRWA clinic and see that the health situation - thanks primarily to the very hard work of the health staff - has been kept under some control. But this is very, very fragile.

“And I want to finish with one thought, the thought is that in one month the schools have to start. What will happen to the children if the PA schools cannot function? The UNRWA schools will function but that’s not enough. All the schools that UNRWA doesn’t run must also function because if there is no education there is no peace. We can not leave kids in the street during the school year. That is bad for the security of this place, that is bad for the future of a whole generation.

“We are now running out of vital supplies. Two items, broad beans and whole milk, will run out this week. This is a major concern to us because, as you know, we are feeding 820,000 people in the Gaza Strip at the moment.”

V. UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS BRIEFS
SECURITY COUNCIL ON THE SITUATION IN THE MIDDLE
EAST, INCLUDING THE PALESTINIAN QUESTION

The Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs, Ibrahim Gambari, briefed the Security Council on 22 August 2006 on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question (S/PV.5515). Excerpts from the briefing are reproduced below:



This time last year, Israel was disengaging from Gaza and part of the northern West Bank. Led by the Quartet, the international community was working to ensure that that step would lead the parties back to the Road Map, and to the revival of the economy of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Sadly, those hopes have not been fulfilled. Far from advancing towards the vision of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security, we have seen that vision slip further away during the past year. There are, in our opinion, several reasons for that unfortunate development.

The first is the political positions and actions of the parties. While President Abbas remains firmly committed to his platform of peace, the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, appointed pursuant to the 25 January elections, has not fully committed itself to the basic principles of the peace process: non-violence, recognition of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements. Although factional tensions persist, a broad spectrum of political and other Palestinian forces are currently engaged in a dialogue to put in place a national unity Government with a new programme. In the meantime, while efforts to strengthen Palestinian border management and the security services that fall under the purview of the President continue, the Palestinian reform agenda is largely frozen, and with it Palestinian compliance with Road Map obligations.

On the Israeli side, the coalition Government has stated a readiness to commence negotiations if the Palestinian Authority accepts the basic principles of the peace process and implements Road Map obligations. But Israel has not transferred approximately $500 million it owes to the Palestinian Authority under the Paris Protocol, and has itself failed to implement Road Map obligations, including the freezing of settlement activity and the removal of outposts. Meanwhile, it has been planning for the future based on unilateral moves to disengage from parts of the West Bank while consolidating Israeli presence in other parts.

The second measure of the stagnation of the peace process is the degradation of the Palestinian Authority, the most tangible symbol of Palestinian hopes for statehood, as well as of Israeli hopes for a viable partner. The Palestinian Authority was already facing serious difficulties at the end of 2005. While the international community praised aspects of the Palestinian Authority’s response during the disengagement process, the Authority’s performance in the months following disengagement was at best mixed. The wage bill continued to grow as the Palestinian Authority recruited more officers into the security forces; security in Gaza deteriorated; and rocket attacks on Israel continued.



Mechanisms such as the Temporary International Mechanism and the consolidated appeal of the United Nations itself have been put in place to ensure that basic goods and services are delivered and that minimum cash payments are made to the needy. But those mechanisms cannot replace the Palestinian Authority. They do not generate economic growth and they do not provide hope for Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority has shown major weaknesses in the past on security and on fiscal management. But today its capacity to deliver is in rapid decline. The continuation of that trend could lead to the collapse of a key provider, stabilizer and interlocutor in the region, to say nothing of Palestinian hopes for a Palestinian State.

A third measure of the state of the peace process is the most terrible of all, that is, suffering, destruction and death from violence. Israeli land, air and sea operations, despite being said to be aimed at militants or military targets, have killed large numbers of civilians, including many children, and have caused heavy damage to civilian infrastructure such as private homes, bridges and power plants - particularly in Gaza, where violence is a daily fact of life. In the West Bank, too, Israeli incursions are a regular occurrence, particularly in Nablus and Jenin, often causing fatalities.

There have also been several Palestinian suicide attacks in Israeli cities over the past 12 months. The last was in April, but Israeli authorities report that they have foiled many other attempted operations. Israeli civilians living in towns and kibbutzes near Gaza have endured regular Qassam rocket attacks. No Israeli civilians have yet been killed by those rockets since disengagement, but there have been injuries. If the attacks continue, it will only be a matter of time before there are fatalities.



Meanwhile, no progress has been made in securing the release of Corporal Shalit, despite calls for his unconditional release.



A fourth reason for the lack of progress towards a negotiated two-State solution is the creation of facts on the ground that would appear to prejudice final-status issues. Settlement activities continue, with some 3,000 units reportedly under construction within existing settlements. And despite several statements of intent which have been reported to the Security Council, unauthorized settlement outposts have not been dismantled.



A fifth measure, in our opinion, is the economic situation, since development is a building-block of peace. The impoverishment in the Palestinian territories is more severe now than it has ever been, including during the period at the height of the second intifada. According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, some 70 per cent of Palestinians are living below the poverty threshold, and 85 per cent of the population in Gaza is currently receiving food aid.



The sixth measure of the state of the peace process is perhaps the most worrying development of the past year, difficult to quantify but easy to discern. It has been in the attitudes of ordinary women and men. Opinion polls suggest a woeful decline in confidence in the peace process and in the prospects for a negotiated settlement on both sides.



The stalled state of the peace process should therefore be regarded as unacceptable, both on its own merits and because of its broader regional implications. There are many concrete steps, some immediate, which need to be taken in order to get out of the current crisis and back towards a political path. As the Secretary-General stressed on 11 August, something more is needed: a renewed international effort in which the various crises in the region are addressed not in isolation and not bilaterally, but as part of a holistic and comprehensive effort, sanctioned and championed by the Security Council, to bring peace and stability to the region as a whole. The tragedy we have witnessed in the last month should, in our view, be converted to an opportunity to take prompt, concerted action by all parties to resolve the problems and issues in the region, which have confronted us, without resolution, for far too long.

VI. UNRWA ISSUES A STATEMENT ON THE EFFECT OF LACK OF ACCESS
UPON CHILDREN IN THE GAZA STRIP

On 24 August 2006, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) issued the following press release (HQ/G/15/2006):

UNRWA warned on Thursday that the Agency’s Gaza operation is grinding to a halt because of the lack of access in and out of Gaza. The principal goods terminal, Karni, remains closed for the seventh consecutive day. As a result, shortages of food, fuel and constructions supplies are jeopardizing every element of UNRWA’s Gaza operation at the moment. John Ging, UNRWA’s Director of Operations in Gaza said that “the food distribution to 830,000 people will not commence as planned next week, unless Karni opens and a solution is found to get the containers quickly through the port of Ashdod, where there are also massive delays because of the fallout from the conflict with Lebanon.”

The Agency has just one week’s fuel supply remaining. Since the Gaza Power Plant was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in late June, the operation of UNRWA health clinics is heavily dependant on generator power. “If we run out of fuel, this will be extremely serious in terms of the storage of medical supplies and the operation of medical equipment at UNRWA’s 18 health centers throughout the Gaza Strip,” John Ging said.

As for construction supplies, UNRWA highlighted that almost none has entered Gaza since late June, which is a particular problem as the Agency prepares for the return of its 194,000 students next week. “The work to repair the schools damaged in the military operations over the past two months is not finished as supplies have run out,” John Ging said. The long-awaited extension to the UNRWA vocational training center in Gaza City is also half-finished and with no alternative accommodation available, UNRWA has been forced to postpone commencement of the seven technical courses involved until November. “Children are once again paying the price in this conflict,” Ging stated.

Ging described the overall humanitarian living conditions in Gaza, as “miserable, frustrating and still deteriorating.” He said that “the opportunities opened up by last year’s disengagement by Israel from the settlements in Gaza are fading. The prospects are very worrying as Gaza is now cut off economically from the outside world and even keeping our humanitarian operations going is an expensive struggle”.

UNRWA is now facing a bill of some 1 million dollars from its Israeli shipping agents in demurrage charges directly arising from the closures of Karni crossing.

VII. UNDP ISSUES REPORT ON THE ASSESSMENT OF DAMAGES
CAUSED BY THE ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES OPERATIONS
IN THE GAZA STRIP FROM 26 JUNE UNTIL 28 AUGUST 2006

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People (PAPP) released the findings of damage assessment it conducted of the infrastructure in the Gaza Strip between 26 June and 28 August 2006, during the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operations. The assessment examined physical and material damage to six sectors: municipal infrastructure, housing, public buildings, agriculture, energy and industry. The assessment was divided across five distinct geographic areas in the Gaza Strip, namely the officially established Governorates: Gaza, Rafah, Khan Yunis, Middle and North. The introduction to the report is reproduced below:

Introduction

Following the kidnapping of an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) solider by three Palestinian militants, the IDF launched a military offensive in the Gaza Strip on 28 June 2006 codenamed “Operation Summer Rains.” In addition to killing over 200 Palestinians, including 44 children, the operation resulted in extensive damage to Palestinian infrastructure and economy in the Gaza Strip.

In an effort to account for the extent of the physical and material damage that resulted from the military operations, the UNDP Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People (PAPP) immediately commenced an extensive damage assessment exercise that covered the entire geographic area of the Gaza Strip. While this exercise is still ongoing, this document reports some of the salient initial findings of the assessment yielded thus far. The damage
was assessed across sectors and geographic areas. The estimated total cost of the damage assessed for the period between 28 June and 27 August 2006 is around US$ 46 million.

VIII. WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME WARNS OF THE DETERIORATING
HUMANITARIAN SITUATION IN THE GAZA STRIP
The World Food Programme (WFP) issued on 28 August 2006 the following press release:

Ahead of an international donor conference this week on the reconstruction of Lebanon in the Swedish capital, Stockholm, WFP has warned that the situation in Lebanon must not be allowed to overshadow the rapidly deteriorating living conditions of the people in Gaza. The economy is really reaching rock bottom. Industries which were once the backbone of Gaza’s economy and food system, such as the agriculture and fishing industries, are suffocated by the current situation and risk losing all viability,” said Arnold Vercken, WFP Country Director in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Farmers have been heavily affected by sporadic closures which have cut the agricultural cycle, limiting supply of vital inputs and isolating the Gaza market from external trade. No exported goods left the Gaza Strip in July.

Furthermore, the destruction of nearly 400 hectares of agricultural land, as well as irrigation pipes and greenhouses, in July has left farmers destitute with no support to re-cultivate their land. Even the agricultural banks have stopped providing loans to farmers. Gaza’s infrastructure lies crippled, affecting the lives of the 1.4 million population on a daily basis. Power and water supplies remain low and unreliable. Farmers, who are forced to purchase power and water to maintain their crops, are passing on inflated production costs to customers at a time when the purchasing power of the population is at an all-time low and less than one third of the population is bringing home an income. As a result, farmers are struggling to sell their produce and make ends meet. Gaza today remains completely reliant on an external food supply and commercial stocks. Over a six-week period from 1 July to 15 August, WFP transported some 5,000 tons of food into Gaza for its expanded caseload. There is now a one-month stock of food aid available. In contrast to Lebanon, where humanitarian food aid needs have been essentially met, the growing number of poor in Gaza are living on the bare minimum and face a daily struggle to cover their daily food needs. Some 70 per cent of Gaza’s population are food insecure and the vast majority are dependant on assistance from the United Nations to cover their basic needs. WFP has responded to the rising poverty by increasing the number of people assisted to 220,000 from 160,000 previously. They include poor farmers, fishermen, daily workers and disabled/disadvantaged individuals - around 50 per cent of the non-refugee population, or 16 per cent of Gaza’s total population.

Over 35,000 of those assisted are farmers and fishermen. Fishermen are currently faced with an insurmountable challenge. The fishing industry - already in a steep decline owing to restricted waters and pollution - has been paralyzed by a total closure of the Gaza coastline since 25 June. The markets are now empty of fish and 35,000 people reliant on the industry are suffering a devastating loss of income. “WFP food assistance is acting as a band aid in an attempt to prevent a further decline of livelihoods and nutrition among the poorest. Any improvement in the current humanitarian situation would only occur if Gaza’s economy were given a firm kick-start.

“However, rising criminality and a return to kidnapping illustrate the precariousness of the situation and this deters foreign investment and much needed job creation,” warned Vercken. The evidence of the increasing poverty and destitution is visible everywhere in Gaza. The streets - normally bustling with traffic - are now noticeably quieter as people are staying at home or replacing their cars with donkey carts or bicycles to save fuel. Poor people continue to raid the garbage cans for anything they can sell. Shops and markets are functioning but with very few customers. Shop owners speak of rising numbers of customers requesting credit. Despite the deteriorating situation, WFP faces severe funding shortfalls, which have become a huge constraint on its work in the Palestinian territory.
The current two-year operation, launched in September 2005, which requires US$103 million, is only 44 per cent resourced. The operation originally aimed to provide 154,000 tons of food assistance to 135,500 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and 344,500 in the West Bank.
However, since international funding to the Palestinian Authority was cut off in January, an increasing number of Palestinians are facing impoverishment. WFP has responded to growing needs by raising the number of beneficiaries from 480,000 to 600,000.

IX. SECRETARY-GENERAL SUPPORTS A PALESTINIAN NATIONAL
UNITY GOVERNMENT DURING HIS VISIT TO THE
MIDDLE EAST
During the Secretary-General’s visit to Ramallah on 30 August 2006 he expressed to the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas his support for a Palestinian national unity government. The text of the press release on the visit is reproduced below:

Secretary-General Kofi Annan today expressed support for Palestinian efforts towards forming a unity government in the occupied territory as he met President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank for talks focusing on the economic and social problems there and in Gaza.

Mr. Annan arrived for the meeting with the leader of the Palestinian Authority from Israel on the latest leg of his regional tour to promote the full implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006) that ended the month-long conflict in Lebanon, which he emphasized should not be allowed to divert attention from the plight of the Palestinians.

“The suffering of the Palestinian people must not be forgotten… I have made my feelings known in talks with Israeli officials. Beyond preserving life, we have to sustain life. The closure of Gaza must be lifted. Crossing points must be opened not just to allow goods in, but to also allow Palestinian exports out as well,” he told reporters at a joint press conference with Mr. Abbas in Ramallah.

“I also discussed with President Abbas his ongoing efforts with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to form a national unity government. This is a very important process. If the Palestinians can unite around a common and realistic programme, and if this can help bring the security situation under control, it would be a very positive step indeed.”

Mr. Annan said he had also spoken with the President about efforts to release the abducted Israeli soldier who was kidnapped in June. The meeting also focused on ending the rocket attacks and Israeli incursions, as well as Mr. Abbas’ long-standing demands for progress on Palestinian prisoners.

“The immediate problems are those of daily life. And I mean ‘life’ quite literally. Over 200 Palestinians have been killed since the end of June. This must stop immediately.”

“I fully agreed that an end to the occupation and the creation of a Palestinian State living side by side with Israel is key to resolving the problems of this troubled region.”
______________




Follow UNISPAL RSS Twitter