UN Official Strongly Criticizes Gaza Blockade, West Bank House Demolitions

By Palestine Chronicle Staff

Stephen O’Brien, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, has called on Israel to lift the Gaza Strip and allow construction materials into the coastal enclave in addition to stopping house demolitions in the West Bank.

In a statement he read at the UN yesterday, he said: “In the occupied Gaza Strip, 70% of the population currently receives some form of international assistance, mostly food aid. Yet our ability to deliver that assistance has become increasingly restricted.”

O’Brien accused Israel of banning certain materials from getting into Gaza. He noted, “Affected items range from communications equipment, to cement, wood and even water pumps, fire trucks and medical X-ray machines.”

He added that Israeli restrictions don’t include cement only, but equipment for materials needed to implement projects to stop the flooding that threaten the lives of nearly half million Palestinians.

“It’s not just about concrete. Urgent projects which aim to reduce the risk of flooding that threatens nearly 500,000 people as winter approaches have been on hold for 10 months awaiting clearance of equipment. Projects to rehabilitate water wells and the construction of a neonatal intensive care unit are other examples of urgent needs suffering unnecessary, long delays,” he said.

“Ultimately, real progress in Gaza requires a full lifting of the blockade by Israel, in line with the resolutions of this Council and the General Assembly. Until that happens, Israel must ensure that items needed for reconstruction, relief and emergency preparedness are allowed entry. And that aid workers are able to move about to do their vital work.”

The UN official also highlighted Israel’s campaign in the West Bank to demolish Palestinian houses. Most house demolitions, according to the UN official, take place in Area C, which is under full Israeli control.

“The pace of demolitions and confiscations of Palestinian property by the Israeli authorities has far exceeded any previous years on record; more than double this year as compared to 2015. These have occurred mainly within herding communities in Area C, which count amongst Palestine’s most vulnerable households,” O’Brien concluded.


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