UN official voices concern at humanitarian conditions facing Palestinians

24 October 2007Raising concerns about the humanitarian conditions facing Palestinians, the top United Nations political official today told the Security Council that planned Israeli measures could further hamper relief efforts. “Economic activity and humanitarian operations will be seriously affected by the decision of Israel to further restrict access for West Bank residents – including UN staff – to East Jerusalem and the ‘seam zone’ between the Barrier and the green line,” B. Lynn Pascoe, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said during his periodic Council briefing.The announced intention to halve the number of crossing points for goods from 12 to six and the imposition of “back to back” procedures and new customs regulations “would, if implemented, significantly increase the cost of transportation of humanitarian supplies, and result in possibly unsustainable operational obstacles,” he warned. The UN is engaging the Israeli Government to seek a reconsideration of the measures.The humanitarian situation in Gaza is “deteriorating alarmingly,” Mr. Pascoe said. In June and July, around 100 truckloads of humanitarian goods were entering Gaza daily, but that figure has shrunk to 50. In July, an average of 40 critical medical cases crossed Erez into Israel for medical treatment not available in Gaza, but that number has since dwindled to five.Poverty levels are on the rise, food prices are increasing, and tens of thousands of workers have lost incomes, the Under-Secretary-General said.“We are also concerned that one of the two crossings that remain open for humanitarian goods – Sufa – is slated to be closed towards the end of this month,” Mr. Pascoe said, pointing out that the number of trucks going through there was nearly four times the number which went through Kerem Shalom which, although upgraded, is “unlikely to have the capacity” required to meet the humanitarian needs of the population.“It is difficult to see how security concerns can justify the hardship these measures are causing,” said Mr. Pascoe, reiterating Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s strong injunction against punishment of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. He also repeated the concern expressed by the Quartet – a diplomatic grouping of the UN, United States, Russian Federation and European Union – regarding the continued closure of Gaza, and its call for continued emergency and humanitarian assistance without obstruction and the provision of essential services.Looking to a planned international meeting on the Middle East being supported by the Quartet, Mr. Pascoe said the Secretary-General hopes it “deals with the substance of permanent peace, has broad Arab participation, produces results that positively affect the lives of Israelis and Palestinians, and leads to a serious follow-on process.”Toward this end, he encouraged the parties “to be bold in reaching understandings on core issues and on a clear process following the international meeting.”Also today, in the General Assembly’s Social, Humanitarian and Cultural (Third) Committee John Dugard, the Human Rights Council’s independent Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, said that the situation there had worsened since his last report, with the humanitarian crisis continuing and over 80 per cent of the population living below the poverty line. read more