"WHAT IS NEXT IF VIOLENCE ENDS?"
UNRWA’s Deputy Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi went to some of the hardest hit areas of the Gaza Strip on Sunday (13 August 2006). "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", Mr. Grandi said.
He saw the destruction in the northern town of Beit Hanoun. He also went to the south and met with the people who have sought shelter in an UNRWA school in Rafah after having fled their homes in the occupied Shouka area.
Addressing the media at a press conference in the Karni industrial zone Mr. Grandi said
"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?"
Mr Grandi looked at the efforts to end the conflict in Lebanon: "Yesterday we had – maybe – good news from New York. There is a Security Council resolution hopefully preparing the ground for peace in Lebanon in the near future. 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."
Recent incursions into the Karni industrial zone have left the infrastructure severely damaged. This usually vibrant area is now empty and quiet. Many of the companies will struggle to get started again. Some of them might not survive. Last month the offices of many Karni based Gazan companies were demolished, even the motherboards of their computers were taken away.
"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", Mr Grandi said.
He continued: "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", Mr Grandi said. "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."
John Ging, the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, added that the Karni crossing has been open only for about 40 per cent of the time since operation "Summer Rains" began on the 27th of June.
"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" Mr. Ging said.