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Department of Public Information (DPI)
29 January 2008
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY MARIE OKABE
DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Today, the Office of the UN Special Coordinator in Jerusalem (UNSCO) reports that all crossings into Gaza from Israel remain closed, except for fuel imports. Since 18 January, when comprehensive Israeli closures were imposed, only 32 truckloads of goods have entered Gaza. This compares to a daily average of 250 before June 2007.
UNSCO says that the influx of goods from Egypt is only temporary and that UN operations must continue. A backlog of 224 trucks -- from the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the World Health Organization (WHO) and WFP -- has now accumulated. WFP distributions in some areas of Gaza have already run out of sugar and salt, and UNRWA says malnutrition will rise if the current lockdown continues.
Complicating the situation is the fact that the UN’s Palestinian staff with permits to exit Gaza are currently not permitted to do so, resulting in the hampering of UN operations.
In addition, WHO is concerned that fuel distributors in Gaza are on strike in response to the Israeli restrictions. As a result, health facilities are not getting the fuel they need. A UN team is planning to meet with the Distributors Union tomorrow to encourage them to allow the fuel to flow.
Meanwhile, UNICEF reports that some water wells are functioning again after being reconnected to electricity and functioning generators. Nevertheless, 40 per cent of Gazans still have limited access to safe water.
: Back again to Gaza. You know, there are some political movements now, launched by Egypt, to give President Mahmoud Abbas borders between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. So my question: does Ban Ki-moon support such a step? And also, there is a meeting to be held tomorrow between Hamas and Al-Fatah regarding the conditions and the situation in Gaza. Does Mr. Ban Ki-moon also support having, or resuming, contacts with Hamas?
: The Secretary-General, as you know, today he is in Kigali, so I don’t think that he is going to have an immediate reaction to what you are saying. But in terms of discussions going on there: these are bilateral discussions. As far as the UN’s position is concerned, I just echoed the position of the UN Special Coordinator in Jerusalem, which is that the opening with Egypt is only temporary and UN operations must continue.
: I am not asking about this. I am asking about taking over the borders by the Palestinian President. So what is the position of the Secretary-General on this?
: This is something that is happening right now between Egypt and another party. The Secretary-General is closely monitoring what is going on there. His immediate concern, though -- which we have been echoing every day -- is the well-being of the people who are living in Gaza, and for the UN right now, it’s to make sure that their desperate needs are met.