24 January 2009 – The top United Nations humanitarian official, who is on the ground to assess needs in Gaza, has lauded the determination of those working to address the immediate needs of people in the wake of the recent three-week Israeli military offensive.
Today in Ramallah and Jerusalem, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes met with the Palestinian Authority, representatives of the Private Sector Council, Palestinian and Israeli non-government organizations (NGOs), and Israeli academics.
Members of civil society stressed to the UN official the need to keep the crossings into Gaza open, while Palestinian groups voiced the deep anger of their community and called for accountability.
The 22-day offensive, which Israel launched on 27 December with the stated aim of ending Hamas rocket attacks, claimed over 1,300 lives, 412 of them children, and wounded more than 5,450, 1,855 of them children, as well as causing widespread destruction and suffering.
In his talks with the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, Mr. Holmes, who also serves as Emergency Relief Coordinator, discussed bolstering relief, recovery and emergency repairs.
Welcoming the support of governments and private organizations, the Palestinian Authority underscored the importance of cash donations, and asked that donors coordinate their aid with both the United Nations and the Authority.
“During my visit to Gaza earlier this week, the destruction I witnessed was devastating,” said the Under-Secretary-General. “However, I end this visit encouraged by the determination of those I have met to respond as quickly as possible to the immediate needs of the people of Gaza, and to help them resume a life lived with dignity.”
Yesterday, he briefed donors on his visit to Gaza and on the Flash Appeal to meet critical needs to be launched early next month, tomorrow, he will travel to Egypt to confer with representatives from the Government and the League of Arab States, as well as UN officials, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and others.
John Ging, Director of Operations in Gaza for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), cautioned that there is growing anger in Gaza over the recent Israeli military operation that inflicted death, damage and destruction in the territory.
Briefing reporters in New York via video-link from Gaza yesterday, he emphasized that ensuring accountability and restoring the local economy are the main ways to make certain the conflict does not create more extremists.
“People are increasingly angry about what has happened here. That is perfectly understandable. But we want to channel the emotions now into something constructive and positive,” Mr. Ging noted.