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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
29 December 2008





Monday, December 29, 2008


    • I am deeply alarmed by the current escalation of violence in and around Gaza. This is unacceptable.
    • I have been repeatedly condemning the rocket attacks by Hamas militants against Israel. While recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself, I have also condemned the excessive use of force by Israel in Gaza.  The suffering caused to civilian populations as a result of the large-scale violence and destruction that have taken place over the past few days has saddened me profoundly.
    • The frightening nature of what is happening on the ground, in particular its effects on children -- who are more than half of the population -- troubles me greatly. I have continuously stressed the need for strict observance of international humanitarian law.
    • I am also pained at the death, injury and damage to United Nations personnel and premises as well as to others associated with our programmes.
    • All this must stop. Both Israel and Hamas must halt their acts of violence and take all necessary measures to avoid civilian casualties. A ceasefire must be declared immediately. They must also curb their inflammatory rhetoric.
    • Only then can dialogue start.
    • I think regional and international partners have not done enough.  They should do more. They should use all possible means to end the violence and encourage political dialogue, emphasizing peaceful ways of resolving differences. 
    • Arab Foreign Ministers are going to meet soon in emergency session. I urge them to act swiftly and decisively to bring an early end to this impasse. At the same time, other world leaders must also step up efforts to support a longer term resolution of the issue.
    • During the past few days, I have spoken to the principals of the Quartet, to regional leaders including Prime Minister Olmert, Foreign Minister Livni, President Abbas, President Mubarak, President Assad, Prime Minister Siniora, Prime Minister Erdogan and Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Amre Moussa, and to a number of other leaders, in order to underscore the need to restore calm in full. I shall continue these efforts personally as well as through my envoys in the field.
    • I reiterate my call that unhindered access should be ensured for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.  The United Nations, through the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process [UNSCO], United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East [UNRWA] and other agencies on the ground have been in continuous contact with all relevant authorities and mobilizing themselves to provide much needed assistance and alleviate civilian suffering.
    • I expect all parties to fully heed my call. In particular, Israel must keep opening all border crossings necessary for the continued provision of humanitarian supplies. Israeli Government leaders have given me a guarantee that such supplies and personnel would be allowed entry into Gaza.  This cooperation must continue on a rolling basis in the coming days.
    • My colleagues, John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General of OCHA [for Humanitarian Affairs] in New York, and Karen Abu Zayd, Commissioner General of UNRWA and Maxwell Gaylard, Humanitarian Coordinator, UNSCO, through video links, can provide a further update on the humanitarian situation and our work in the area.
    • The Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Karen Abu Zayd, and UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) Robert Serry today wrote an urgent joint letter to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak to protest in the strongest possible terms two “disturbing” incidents in Gaza.
    • The letter expresses deep concern about the safety of UN personnel and installations in the Gaza Strip and requests specific and immediate undertakings regarding their security.
    • The first incident took place on 27 December, when an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) missile targeted a group of policemen standing in the street near the building of the Gaza governorate, immediately across the street from the UNRWA Gaza Training Center, which is located within the compound housing the main UNRWA office in the Gaza Strip.
    • Eight UNRWA Gaza Training Center students between the ages of 18 and 20, who were standing nearby waiting for the UN buses to bring them home, were killed and 19 injured from the blast. Eight of the injured remain in hospital in critical conditions today. One of these critically injured students is unconscious with intracranial shrapnel and requires immediate transfer to an Israeli hospital for advanced central nervous system surgery.  
    • The second incident took place today. The Headquarters of UNSCO in Gaza suffered collateral damage when two missiles struck the immediately adjacent Presidential guest house. Initial assessments by UN staff on the ground are that the strike sites were approximately 20-30 meters from the UNSCO compound. The UNSCO conference room in Gaza was heavily damaged along with several staff offices; seven vehicles were totally or partially destroyed; and damage was sustained to the roof, windows, doors, water pipelines, electricity cables and internet cables at the complex. A national professional officer and three security guards on duty to protect the compound were able to escape without physical injury.
    • Every measure has been taken by the United Nations to protect its personnel. The United Nations is operating on a skeleton of essential staff.
    • According to the letter, UN premises must be protected and inviolate. The Government of Israel has all coordinates of UN premises in Gaza. These strikes occurred without prior warning. Military attacks in these circumstances, so close to UN premises as to recklessly endanger UN personnel and property, must not be repeated. Ms. Abu Zayd and Mr. Serry have sought immediate assurance to this effect.
    • The Security Council met late on Saturday night to discuss the situation in Gaza in closed consultations, and, early on Sunday morning, the Council President, Ambassador Neven Jurica, read out a statement on the Council’s behalf, saying that Council members expressed serious concern at the escalation of the situation in Gaza and called for an immediate halt to all violence. Council members called on the parties to stop immediately all military activities.
    • Council members called for all parties to address the serious humanitarian and economic needs in Gaza and to take necessary measures, including the opening of border crossings, to ensure the continuous provision of humanitarian supplies, including supplies of food, fuel and provision of medical treatment. They also stressed the need for the restoration of calm in full.

*The senior officials participating in the news conference were John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Karen AbuZayd, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Maxwell Gaylard, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory.



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