Palestine : The Gaza Holocaust

Palestine Today

"To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy."

President Obama's inaugural speech, 20 January 2009. (Full Text) (Find out more about the situation in Gaza)

Gaza - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited the war-shattered Gaza Strip on Tuesday to demonstrate solidarity with the population and assure them of the full support of the UN and the international community.

"I am just appalled," he said on visiting the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) compound that was bombed by Israel last week.

"Everyone is smelling this bombing still. It is still burning. It is an outrageous and totally unacceptable attack against the United Nations.

"I have protested many times, and am today protesting in the strongest terms, and am condemning it. I have asked for a full investigation and to make those responsible people accountable."

Mr Ban said he would dispatch a humanitarian needs assessment team on Thursday, led by UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes.

"I will do all I can, as Secretary-General of the United Nations, to help in this time of need.

"This is shocking and alarming. These are heartbreaking scenes. I am deeply grieved by what I have seen today. To the people of Gaza I have this to say.

"I have seen only a fraction of the destruction and suffering caused to this tiny and crowded place by more than three weeks of heavy bombardment, shelling and street fighting on top of months and years of economic deprivation.

"I have condemned from the outbreak of this conflict the excessive use of force by the Israeli forces in Gaza.

"I view the rocket attacks into Israel as completely unacceptable."

Earlier on Tuesday he met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, again expressing his relief that Israel had declared a unilateral ceasefire.

He 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.

He told Mr Olmert the UN would continue to play a pivotal role in providing humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza, as well as in long term recovery and reconstruction.

In addition to visiting Gaza, Mr Ban was also visiting the town of Sderot in southern Israel, a frequent target of Hamas rocket attacks.

He has frequently condemned these attacks as well as Israel's disproportionate response.

The three weeks of violence claimed over 1 300 lives, 412 of them children, and wounded more than 5 300, 1 855 of them children, as well as caused widespread destruction and suffering.

Mr Ban said a true end to violence, and true security for both Israelis and Palestinians, would 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.

UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said four crossing points were open on Tuesday, including the fuel transmission centre at Nahal Oz, but not nearly enough supplies were getting through, with more food needed as well as more fuel to power hospitals and bakeries.

He noted that it still remained very difficult for humanitarian staff, especially from non-governmental organizations, to cross over and this was a matter of particular concern.

He said there was a crucial need for reconstruction materials such as cement and pipes, banned after Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, in light of the devastation of infrastructure.

"It's absolutely critical that these kinds of material now be allowed into Gaza on a regular and hopefully free basis," he stressed, adding that he would pursue the matter with the Israeli authorities when he visits the region later this week.

Meanwhile, health care, food distribution, water and sanitation were gradually improving, although sewage was still bubbling up on the streets in some northern areas, posing a potential health hazard. - BuaNews