Thursday, June 17, 2010
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today he hopes Israel’s announcement that it will ease the blockade on the Gaza Strip to allow more civilian goods to enter the territory will lead to an improvement in the lives of the 1.5 million Palestinians living there. “The Secretary-General is encouraged that the Israeli Government is reviewing its policy towards Gaza, and he hopes that today’s decision by the Israeli security cabinet is a real step towards meeting needs in Gaza,” his spokesperson said in a statement. Mr. Ban has asked Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordination for the Middle East Peace Process, to immediately engage the Israeli Government to learn more about the decision and the additional measures needed to implement it.
The UN chief has repeatedly called for ending the blockade, which Israel imposed on Gaza for what it called security reasons after Hamas, which does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, ousted the Fatah movement in the Strip in 2007. He did so most recently in the wake of the 31 May incident in which Israel raided a six-ship convoy that was carrying humanitarian goods and activists and heading for Gaza. The operation resulted in the deaths of nine civilians and the wounding of at least 30 others, and prompted renewed calls for Israel to end the blockade.
The UN, according to today’s statement, continues to seek “a fundamental change in policy” so that humanitarian assistance, commercial goods and people are able to flow through functioning open crossings, and reconstruction can take place.
Chris Gunness, spokesman for the UN agency that assists Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, reacted to Israel’s announcement by noting that anything that eases the humanitarian suffering in Gaza is a step in the right direction. for the West Bank and Gaza.
(from a UN Press Release)