UN secretary-general renews appeal for weeklong ceasefire in Gaza

28 Jul 2014 / 18:26 H.

    NEW YORK: United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, who returned from a six-day tour from a number of Middle Eastern countries, welcomed the 12-hour ceasefire in the Gaza conflict allowing access to volunteers to provide urgent humanitarian relief assistance.
    At the same time, he renewed his appeal to the parties in the conflict to observe a week-long ceasefire to pave the way for resumption of negotiations.
    A statement issued by Ban's spokesperson claimed that many images showed that the people of Gaza were trying to return to their daily lives, tending to the wounded and taking care of the dead bodies, during the ceasefire which ended Saturday.
    Ban said in the statement that these images made it clear that "we owe to the people of both Israel and Gaza our renewed effort to consolidate this pause in fighting into a more sustainable ceasefire".
    "The Secretary-General therefore urgently appeals once again to all parties to declare a seven-day humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza as a prelude to renewing a political process as the only way of achieving a durable peace," the statement said, adding that Ban strongly urged the parties, at the very minimum, to extend the current humanitarian pause.
    Upon conclusion of his Middle East tour, Ban emphasised that it was time for all the parties in the conflict to stop fighting and start talking.
    Indeed, during his stopover in Cairo, he told reporters that there was no military solution to addressing the grievances and all parties must find a way to dialogue.
    Ban also underscored the need to end the 47-year old occupation and the 'chokehold' on Gaza, ensure security based on mutually recognised needs, and achieve a permanently sustainable two-state solution enabling both Israelis and Palestinians to live, side by side, in peace and security.
    In his statement, the UN secretary-general reminded that any bid for peace that did not address the root causes of the crisis would do little more than set the stage for the next cycle of violence.
    While the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) maintained that the latest Israeli military offensive in Gaza, that is home to 1.8 million people, had left hundreds dead and thousands injured, other international NGOs say that the number of those killed in the Israeli campaign exceeded 1,000 civilian casualties on the Palestinian side.
    More than 170,000 people have sought refuge in make-shift shelters in UNRWA schools amid uncertainty, anguish and risks to their lives, as the UNRWA put it.
    UNRWA commissioner-general Pierre Krahenbuhl said the situation in Gaza had been extreme for so many years, to the point of becoming completely unsustainable.
    The latest conflict had been a terrible added blow which was taking a staggering toll on Gaza's civilians, and would leave a lasting mark for years to come, particularly on children.
    UN sources told Bernama that Krahenbuhl had Sunday visited the Jordanian capital Amman where he was given an audience by Queen Rania Al Abdullah to discuss the crisis.
    Krahenbuhl also expressed the agency's gratitude in acknowledgement of Jordan's continued support in facilitating the flow of humanitarian supplies through Jordan.
    Queen Rania took the opportunity to observe that the Gaza region was suffering the third round of conflict in less than six years, and underlined the urgent need for funds to enable UNRWA to continue its life-saving assistance.
    According to UN sources in New York, the queen reportedly called Gaza a protracted humanitarian disaster, with its people trapped in a vicious cycle of bloodshed and blockade for too long.
    "Failure to meet the desperate needs of Gaza's innocent civilians today would be a fundamental failure in our humanity," the queen said. – Bernama


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