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"As is" reference - not a United Nations document

Source: AFP
8 February 2010

UN urges Egypt, Arab League to press Israel on Gaza
By Mona Salem (AFP)
8 February 2010

The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Filippo Grandi, on Monday urged Egypt and the Arab League to press Israel to allow reconstruction equipment into the blockaded Gaza Strip.

"I am in Cairo to discuss the situation in Gaza and to call on the Cairo government and the Arab League to continue pressure on the state of Israel to lift entry restrictions on people and construction equipment," he told AFP.

Israel has imposed a tight blockade on the Gaza Strip since the Islamist movement Hamas ousted loyalists of president Mahmud Abbas's secular Fatah party, taking control of the enclave in June 2007.

The Jewish state launched a 22-day war on Gaza that ended on January 18, 2009 and killed about 1,400 Palestinians. Thirteen Israelis also died during the offensive which devastated the already impoverished coastal enclave.

Israel refuses to let construction materials into Gaza for fear that Hamas would use it for military purposes.

"We respect Israel's security concerns. They are legitimate concerns, but we have offered very precise guarantees that the material we receive would only be used for our reconstruction projects," Grandi said.

"We have very strict procedures, and we are very scrupulous as far as the use of the resources we receive for our projects" is concerned, he said.

Grandi, who was appointed commissioner general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees on January 20, on Sunday met Arab League chief Amr Mussa and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit.

Egypt is the current president of UNRWA's Advisory Commission, a committee grouping 23 countries tasked with assisting in the agency's work.

According to Grandi, the situation in Gaza can only be described as a "very serious crisis."

"It's a crisis that affects all aspects of life for the residents of Gaza," he said.

"It's an economic crisis with a crumbling private sector, it's a social crisis, a crisis of institutions, it's a very serious general crisis that the banning of construction material renders even more serious," he said.

Grandi also called for the lifting of the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip, saying that in the long term, it will be a risk for Israel and the region.

"As an occupying power, Israel has the responsibility to let goods get into the Gaza Strip," he said.

The fact that Israel does not do so "has created an illegal economy based on smuggling through tunnels," under the border with Egypt, he said. "It is a risk for the stability of the Gaza Strip, for the whole region and for the security of Israel."

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