Friday, January 23, 2009

Human desperation and environmental catastrophe in Gaza

Environment News Service : Senior United Nations officials today began to assess humanitarian needs in Gaza, getting a first-hand look a the destruction inflicted on the area's 1.5 million residents and their environment during three weeks of Israeli military operations. "The mission was struck by the scale and urgency of the needs of the people of Gaza, and the heavy and multi-faceted impact that this conflict has had on the civilian population," according to a joint statement issued by John Holmes, under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and Robert Serry, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process.

The UN Security Council is calling for the temporary ceasefire in Gaza declared by both sides on January 18 to become a durable truce with guarantees to prevent arms smuggling and to ensure that all border crossings are permanently reopened. But shelling from both sides continues intermittantly, according to local media reports. Israel launched the 22 day offensive on December 27 with the stated aim of ending years of rocket fire from Hamas at southern Israeli towns. The fighting claimed over 1,300 lives in Gaza, 412 of them children, and wounded more than 5,450, 1,855 of them children, as well as causing widespread destruction and suffering.

…The bombing and shelling caused extensive damage to civilian facilities throughout the Gaza Strip, and supplies of basic food and fuel, and the provision of electricity, water and sanitation services remain critical. "We saw a lot of shocking destruction," Holmes said in an interview with UN Radio, describing the scene at several sites in Gaza, including the still-smoldering ruins of the UN compound that was hit last week by Israeli forces….

Map by Lencer, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License

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