January 25th, 2008 03:51 EST
Crossing Closures Jeopardize Gaza Relief Operations
New York, Jan 21 2008 7:00PM
The United Nations agency tasked with helping Palestinian refugees warned today that it may have to halt its food distribution and other key operations inside the Gaza Strip if the closures continue at the crossing points into Gaza.
Karen AbuZayd, Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (<"http://www.un.org/unrwa/news/index.html">UNRWA), said the agency is about to run out of its own fuel supplies in two more days.
Although it has its own food stocks, it will not be able to continue its food support programmes to an estimated 860,000 residents of Gaza past Wednesday if it does not have the fuel to transport the food or the nylon bags needed for distribution.
"It`s very cold here " there`s no fuel, no water, little electricity," Ms. AbuZayd said in an interview with UN Radio.
"We`re very worried and almost frightened, I would say, about what`s going on. We`re about to run out of our own supplies " our own fuel and our own plastic bags in order to distribute our food " We`ve had to help some of the local hospitals, especially the paediatric hospital, with fuel. We`ve had to give fuel to our health centres because everything in Gaza is running on generators now."
Ms. AbuZayd said she was particularly concerned about the health of the sick and the most needy within the Gaza Strip.
"They have no cushions or resources of their own and hospitals are rapidly running out of everything " It`s just a disaster, really."
She said the UN was making contact with Israeli officials to allow the agency to receive supplies, which have been completely blocked since last Thursday. "It`s just a question of phone calls, negotiations, begging and pleading."
Her warning comes just days after Secretary-General issued a <"http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2008/sgsm11380.doc.htm">statement voicing concern over Israel`s decision to close the crossing points into Gaza that are used to transport supplies and warning of the potential humanitarian consequences.
That statement, issued by Mr. Ban`s spokesperson, also called for an immediate end to the violence engulfing Gaza and affecting communities in southern Israel, reiterating the need for Palestinian sniper and rocket attacks into Israel to cease and for the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) to show maximum restraint.
Meanwhile, John Dugard, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, also released a statement on Friday saying that recent Israeli actions in Gaza violated international treaties.
"The killing of some 40 Palestinians in Gaza in the past week, the targeting of a Government office near a wedding party venue with what must have been foreseen loss of life and injury to many civilians, and the closure of all crossings into Gaza raise very serious questions about Israel`s respect for international law and its commitment to the peace process," he said in a press release.
Mr. Dugard said the actions violated the strict prohibition in the Geneva Conventions on collective punishment and one of the basic principles of international humanitarian law " that military action must distinguish between military targets and civilian targets.
Mr. Dugard, who serves in an unpaid and personal capacity, reports to the UN Human Rights Council, which will <"http://www.unhchr.ch/huricane/huricane.nsf/view01/3740E6F7C70D4EAFC12573D7005DE01F?opendocument">hold a special session this Wednesday " at the request of the Group of Arab States and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) " to consider and take actions on "human rights violations emanating from Israeli military incursions in the occupied Palestinian territory," including Gaza and the West Bank town of Nablus.
For more details go to UN News Centre at http://www.un.org/news