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United Nations Information Service at Geneva
United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG)
11 December 2012
REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE UN INFORMATION SERVICE IN GENEVA
11 December 2012
Corinne Momal-Vanian, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing which was also attended by Spokespersons for and representatives of the Economic Commission for Europe, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Refugee Agency, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the International Organization for Migration, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. The United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territories also participated in the briefing.
United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territories
James Rawley, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said that he was speaking only a couple of weeks after the recent and very disturbing cycle of violence in Gaza in particular but also in Israel, which concluded with the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire agreement on 21 November. Once again, it was the civilian population that bore the brunt of the violence in Gaza and southern Israel. Over 100 Palestinian civilians were killed, including at least 33 children and 13 women, and four Israeli civilians were killed and more than 200 injured. Much of the entire population of the Gaza Strip, some 1.6 million people, and some 1 million Israelis were affected by the eight days of hostilities, which included 1,500 Israeli air strikes and volleys from ships and hundreds of rocket being fired out of Gaza towards Israel, including a few that fell on Tel Aviv. The United Nations Secretary-General had underscored the importance of ensuring that much needed humanitarian aid reached those in Gaza, and both he and the High Commissioner for Human Rights had expressed concerns regarding the need for all parties to respect international humanitarian and human rights law, including adherence to the principles of proportionality and distinction.
Mr. Rawley said that it was estimated that 3,000 people, whose homes were among the 450 homes destroyed or severely damaged, were still living close by with relatives, host families or rented accommodation. Throughout the hostilities, the United Nations and its humanitarian partners had remained engaged in Gaza. All programmes that could continue to operate, meaning all except those in schools, had continued to operate. They were also able to respond quickly to the needs of the almost 12,000 people who sought shelter in UNRWA and government schools at the height of the violence. Within 48 hours of the cease-fire, all the programmes that had been operating in Gaza before the hostilities were up and running once again. Then, within 48 hours of the end of hostilities, OCHA launched a four-day inter-agency rapid assessment with the participation of 40 humanitarian partners to gain an overall picture of the humanitarian situation resulting from the hostilities, and to guide an immediate humanitarian response. In parallel to that, a number of in-depth humanitarian assessments had been taking place relating to shelter, psycho-social needs and food security. The immediate inter-cluster response was well under way.
The results of the assessment so far had confirmed that the latest round of hostilities in Gaza had compounded what was already a precarious humanitarian situation in Gaza, where 80 per cent of the population, about 1.3 million, was already receiving aid, including about 800,000 from UNRWA itself. Mr. Rawley said the violence had exacerbated the vulnerabilities of some of Gaza’s poorest people, left up to 3,000 people in need of emergency shelter support, and added to the psychological trauma that children in particular had suffered in recent years. The recent round of violence was a stark reminder that the status quo was unsustainable. They had to go beyond addressing immediate humanitarian and early recovery needs arising from this latest round of hostilities and look ahead. This situation must change. The humanitarian community called upon political actors in the region and beyond to take the necessary steps to ensure durable peace and stability in the region and to allow hope to once again prevail for the people of Gaza and the region.