20 January 2009
After seven hectic days in the Middle East, the UN chief is heading back to New York. Ban Ki-moon's aim when he left was to press for a ceasefire in Gaza, and call for humanitarian aid to be delivered to those in need. He returns with two ceasefires, and no Egyptian-negotiated truce agreement between Israel and Hamas. [...] In the end, Israel stuck to its own timetable of wrapping up the military offensive in Gaza - in time for the inauguration of US President Barack Obama. However Mr Ban did publicly call for Israel to call a unilateral ceasefire, it became clear to him that the Egyptian peace talks weren't reaching agreement on how to stop Hamas smuggling weapons into Gaza and how to re-open the border crossings into the strip to allow food and aid to get in. And Israel did call a unilateral ceasefire, so at the very least that was an astute reading of Israel's options by the softly spoken secretary general.
19 January 2009
The United Nations has already started assessing the devastating damage and relief needs in the Gaza Strip on the first full day of a truce in fighting between Israel and Hamas, with the overall bill possibly reaching billions of U.S. dollars, amid a feeling of "overwhelming grief" among the 1.5 million inhabitants there, senior UN officials said on Monday. [...] The UN World Food Program (WFP) Lifeline Gaza, launched a week ago at Egypt's border with Gaza to raise awareness and resources for victims of the conflict, has already helped deliver urgently needed nutritious food in Khan (south), Der el Balah (centers) and Gaza City. Lifeline Gaza seeks 81 million U.S. dollars for food and logistics for 365,000 people in peril, said the officials.
19 January 2009
Hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid will be needed immediately to help Gaza's 1.4 million people and billions of dollars will be required to rebuild its shattered buildings and infrastructure, the U.N. humanitarian chief said Monday. John Holmes said some neighborhoods have been almost totally destroyed, there are huge medical and food needs, sewage is flowing in some streets, and unexploded ordnance is posing a big problem.
16 January 2009
Any peace plan for the Middle East has to address the hunger and poverty afflicting the Palestinian people, particularly the children. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is attempting to do this through school feeding initiatives in the West Bank and Gaza. School feeding not only fights hunger and malnutrition, but also boosts education. [...] In the West Bank, school feeding is under way with extremely promising results. In the following interview, we will look more closely at this program with Sarah Klonski, the West Bank Coordinator of the World Food Programme.
14 January 2009
The humanitarian disaster in Gaza -- hundreds of dead civilians, overflowing shelters, an acute shortage of anything to eat -- stems in part from a long-running feud between aid groups and Israel that has worsened since the war began, according to interviews with Israeli officials and international aid workers
13 January 2009
The IDF plans to open more crossing points into Gaza starting on Wednesday, in an effort to vastly increase aid to the civilian population. Until now, food, medical supplies and animal feed have mostly gone in through Kerem Shalom, which was designed as a minor crossing point. The IDF now hopes to open the grain chute at the Karni crossing, a major passage way for goods, to allow for the transport of items such as corn, wheat and animal feed. [...] Separately, the European Union's aid chief blasted Israel's military action in Gaza. "It is evident that Israel does not respect international humanitarian law," EUaid commissioner Louis Michel said. Michel said his remark was based on expert accounts, the number of civilian casualties and the difficulty of getting humanitarian aid to the needy. He told Belgium's La Libre newspaper that Israel's actions were all the more difficult to accept because they come from a democracy. But as he stood at the Kerem Shalom crossing on Tuesday morning, Daly Belgasmi, who heads the regional bureau of the UN's World Food Program that provides assistance to 265,000 Gazans, had more positive things to say about Israel and the Kerem Shalom operation. Behind him, a line of trucks waited at the gate to Kerem Shalom to unload their cargo. "This is a life-line operation for us," Belgasmi said.
13 January 2009
Despite heavy air and ground assaults, Israel has yet to cripple the military wing of Hamas or destroy the group's ability to launch rockets, Israeli intelligence officials said on Tuesday, suggesting that Israel's main goals in the conflict remain unfulfilled even after 18 days of war. The comments reflected a view among some Israeli officials that any lasting solution to the conflict would require either a breakthrough diplomatic accord that heavily restricts Hamas's military abilities or a deeper ground assault into urban areas of Gaza, known here as a possible "Phase Three" of the war.
13 January 2009
The UN secretary general has implored Israel and Palestinian militants to halt the fighting in Gaza immediately. Ahead of a trip to the region to push for a truce, Ban Ki-moon said too many people had died and there had been too much civilian suffering.
12 January 2009
Aid agencies said Monday they have resumed relief operations in Gaza, but fighting still prevents them from evacuating the sickest people and reaching all those who need help. [...] As many 88 percent of Gaza's residents now require food aid, said Helene Gayle, president of the relief organization CARE USA. The three-hour lull in fighting that Israel allows for humanitarian aid to move around Gaza is not sufficient, she said. "Food distribution takes a minimum of five hours under normal circumstances, so three hours with no guarantee of safety is woefully inadequate for us to do our job," she said in a conference call with reporters. [...] The World Food Program handed out 1,200 monthly food rations to people in Gaza and 1,400 emergency bread packages Sunday, said spokeswoman Emilia Casella. But the agency has been unable to reach many people who need food, she said.
12 January 2009
Cassandra Nelson is a humanitarian aid worker with Mercy Corps. She spends most of her time deployed in hotspots and hostile areas. She has worked in Iraq, Darfur, Lebanon, South Sudan, Zimbabwe, Liberia, North Korea, Sri Lanka, Banda Aceh, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. Here she describes her experiences trying to provide relief in Gaza.
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