Saturday, February 16, 2008

Top UN official tours Gaza, shocked by misery

Khaleej Times, Feb. 16, 2008

GAZA CITY — The eight-month closure of Gaza has created “grim and miserable” conditions that deprive Gazans of their basic dignity, the UN’s top humanitarian affairs official said during a visit, urging that the territory’s borders be reopened.

Later Friday, a mysterious explosion brought down the three-story house of a senior Islamic Jihad activist in a Gaza refugee camp, killing him, his wife, a daughter and three neighbours. Medics said at least 40 people were wounded in the blast, 12 of them critically.

Hamas police said the cause was not clear, while Islamic Jihad blamed an Israeli airstrike. The Israeli military denied it carried out an airstrike in the Bureij camp.

The UN official, Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes, toured Gaza’s largest hospital, speaking with dialysis patients and inspecting the neonatal unit, and then visited an industrial zone that once employed 1,800 Palestinians but has been idled by the border closure.

Israel and Egypt severely restricted access to Gaza after the Islamic militants seized the territory by force in June. Since then, only a few dozen trucks carrying food, medicine and other basics have been permitted into Gaza every day, while most exports are banned. The closure has driven up poverty and unemployment, and the UN says some 80 percent of Gaza’s 1.4 million people now get some food aid.

Continued . . .

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