Security Council renews call for greater humanitarian access to Gaza
13 February 2009 – The United Nations Security Council again voiced deep concern today about the humanitarian situation in Gaza following Israel’s military offensive against Hamas and stressed “the importance and urgency that more needs to be done.”
In remarks to the media after consultations within the 15-member body, Japanese Ambassador Yukio Takasu, Council President for February, said there was “a convergence of views” on the importance of full implementation of its January resolution which, among other issues, called for unimpeded provision throughout Gaza of food, fuel and medical treatment.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other UN top officials have repeatedly called on Israel to fully open crossings into Gaza for humanitarian goods and reconstruction materials nearly four weeks after the end of its offensive, which killed 1,300 Palestinians, injured some 5,300 others, and reduced homes, schools, hospitals and marketplaces to rubble.
Israel, which launched its operation with the stated aim of ending rocket attacks by Hamas and other groups, has restricted access to the Strip both in response to attacks and for other security reasons.
Meanwhile, a landmine clearance group working on the ground with the UN’s Mine Action Service reported that a number of large aircraft bombs and white phosphorous projectiles had been gathered in an area inside Gaza City.
But the de-miners said they would not know the true scale of the problem until more debris is cleared. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said teams had been collecting unexploded ordnance but due to restrictions on supplies crossing into Gaza, they did not have the materials necessary to destroy or isolate the ordnance.
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) estimated that over 14,000 homes were totally or partially damaged in the fighting. To meet long-term shelter needs of the displaced, UNDP will see that 10,000 families get between $1,000 and $5,000 in cash aid, according to family size, current socio-economic status and level of home damage.
The agency also reported that of the more than 400 schools it assessed in Gaza, over 60 per cent had been partly or severely damaged. Repairing them remains an urgent priority, it said. In the meantime, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has provided 10 tents as learning centres in the hardest-hit areas.
OCHA said aid workers continued to face difficulty in obtaining access to Gaza through the Erez crossing; during January only 18 out of 178 staff requests were granted clearance.
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