20 January 2009 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ahead of a visit to Gaza and southern Israel, stressed the importance of the full withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Strip and the need to ensure humanitarian aid for the 1.5 million people who have suffered during three weeks of hostilities.
Mr. Ban told the Prime Minister that he was going to Gaza today in solidarity with UN staff who have worked heroically during the past weeks, and to demonstrate his respect and concern for all Gazans who lost friends and families, according to a statement issued by his spokesperson.
“During his visit to Gaza, the Secretary-General also intends to assure the people of Gaza that the UN will provide urgent humanitarian assistance and help them start the challenging process of reconstruction,” the statement added.
Mr. Ban announced on Sunday that he will dispatch a humanitarian needs assessment team early this week to Gaza, where three weeks of violence have claimed over 1,000 lives and wounded more than 5,000, in addition to causing widespread destruction and suffering.
In his meeting with Prime Minister Olmert, Mr. Ban again expressed his relief that Israel had declared a unilateral ceasefire. He also stressed the importance of the full withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza and of putting a framework in place to ensure a durable and sustainable end to the violence.
“The Secretary-General firmly believes that a true end to violence, and true security for both Israelis and Palestinians, will only come through a just and comprehensive settlement to the long-festering Arab-Israeli conflict, including the creation of the State of Palestine living side by side with the State of Israel, in peace and security, consistent with relevant Security Council resolutions.”
The Secretary-General will also visit the town of Sderot in southern Israel.