BBC News & Al Jazeera & The London Telegraph – 2009-01-20 21:46:21
UN Demands Flow of Goods to Gaza
The UN humanitarian chief has urged Israel to fully open all crossings with Gaza to allow a free flow of goods. John Holmes said unless Israel allowed building materials into Gaza, no reconstruction could begin there.
He said a recent truce between Israel and Hamas militants did not include any deal on the opening of the crossings, which are tightly controlled by Israel. The UN earlier said rebuilding Gaza after Israel’s three-week offensive would cost billions of dollars.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday he was appalled by Israeli attacks on a UN compound in Gaza after seeing the destruction for himself. Mr Ban said that those responsible should be held accountable and demanded a “full investigation”.
He later visited the southern Israeli town of Sderot, which has been one of the main targets of Palestinian rocket attacks in recent years. Mr Ban described the rockets as indiscriminate weapons and said the attacks by Hamas are violations of basic humanitarian law.
Palestinian medical sources in Gaza say at least 1,300 Palestinians were killed, nearly a third of them children, and 5,500 injured since Israel launched its operation on 27 December. Thirteen Israelis, including three civilians, have been killed, the Israeli army says.
At a news conference in New York on Tuesday, Mr Holmes said it was “absolutely critical” that building materials — like cement and pipes — were allowed into Gaza to rebuild the Palestinian territory. “Otherwise, the reconstruction effort won’t get off first base,” he said.
So far Israel has been allowing only basic humanitarian supplies – like food and medicine – into Gaza.
Mr Holmes, who is expected to visit Israel on Wednesday, also stressed that he would be pushing Israel to allow international aid organisation into Gaza. “In theory, they have permission. In practice, it’s proving very difficult to get into Gaza.”
EU foreign ministers are due to meet Israeli representatives for talks later on Wednesday.
© BBC MMIX
Destruction and Frustration in Gaza
Quil Lawrence / BBC News
GAZA CITY (January 20, 2009) — Fatima Minzaman sat in the dirt next to a crooked mountain of concrete – the five-story apartment building that used to be home to the 67-year-old woman.
Several of her grown sons worked steadily nearby to build a one room shelter from cement blocks. “They [the Israelis] destroyed the houses on people’s heads,” she said, “it’s never been this bad before.”
Mrs Minzaman stayed in her apartment even as the Israeli tanks and bulldozers came, until she and her brother-in-law were warned out by Israeli soldiers who she said placed explosives in the building and then demolished it.
She was one of tens of thousands across Gaza who took advantage of the ceasefire to inspect the remnants of their homes.
Hamas policemen returned to the streets of Gaza on Monday, looking just as tired as the rest of the population of Gaza after three weeks of intense bombardment. They came out to direct the traffic and keep order, but also to show that the Hamas-led government here is still intact. Hamas leaders have claimed victory driving Israel to leave the Strip.
Israel has proclaimed that its objectives have all been met, and that troops will be completely withdrawn by Tuesday.
For beleaguered civilians here there is no kind of victory in the waste laid to entire city blocks in Gaza. “I don’t know who won or lost,” said Mazen Hamada, a chemistry professor at Al Azhar University.
Mr Hamada was visiting relatives east of Gaza City, within sight of the Israeli border.
What had been an orchard of olive and orange trees is now a empty field ploughed with the tracks of Israeli tanks. Alongside a dozen homes lay in various states of destruction. “It’s a message to the civilians here,” said Mr Hamada, “if we try to resist [the occupation] we will see invasion and destruction.”
Frustration and Exhaustion
He said the Israelis wanted to exact a high price from Gaza’s people for the rockets fired at southern Israel by Hamas and other groups. But he predicted the rockets will probably continue.
“It’s also a message – that we are not living here in security, so you should not live secure in your home,” said Mr Hamada.
As they tried to salvage what they could from their ruined homes, many Gazans predicted that Hamas might win more recruits from the renewed anger at Israel.
But a few hinted at a frustration with the rocket fire that has killed only a handful of Israelis but provoked the worst destruction the Gaza strip has seen in decades.
“Hamas pays no attention to the people. They pay attention to themselves only,” said one young man, living in a UN school near the Beach refugee camp.
He charged that Hamas was acting at the behest of Syria and Iran.
But exhaustion was perhaps the strongest sentiment, as Gazans salvaged mattresses, blankets and clothes from their homes.
Faten al-Jorou, aged 35, stumbled out of her front door in tears as her son carried out a cardboard box full of pots, pans and rolling pin.
“How could they do this?” she screamed, “and where are we supposed to go?”
© BBC MMIX
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