[News] Gaza again on brink of disaster

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Tue Apr 28 12:08:52 EDT 2009



Gaza again on brink of disaster, says Scots aid chief

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  Tuesday April 28, 2009 15:55
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TENS of thousands of people struggling to rebuild 
their lives in the Gaza Strip after Israel's 
22-day military offensive this year will face a 
second humanitarian disaster within weeks, 
because aid is not getting through, the Scot 
heading the British Red Cross international relief effort has warned.

Moira Reddick, the charity's head of disaster 
management, said blockages at the Israeli border 
meant civilians were facing spending the summer 
with its soaring temperatures sheltering under 
rotting plastic and tents with little or no 
sanitation, increasing the threat of disease and risk of infection.

Ms Reddick, who visited Gaza, last month, said: 
"We will be looking at a new humanitarian crisis. 
Right now we have assistance which we are trying 
to get in. The situation is that aid is not 
getting through. It is piling up on the other side of the border.

"As summer comes on, the risk to health 
increases. It is difficult enough in winter, but 
it will be impossible in the heat and the risk to health increases."

The 22 days of hostilities, which ended on 18 
January, left at least 1,300 Palestinian 
civilians dead and 5,500 injured. Thirteen 
Israelis were killed, three of them civilians.

Ms Reddick, originally from Ayr, said there were 
also major problems with lack of reconstruction 
work, because building materials such as steel, 
as well as fuel, were being prevented from 
entering the territory. Israel has said Hamas 
could use materials like concrete for military purposes.

Ms Reddick, who deals with an annual budget of 
tens of millions of pounds, added: "The situation 
in Gaza has a political cause and therefore needs 
a political solution. This needs to happen to 
make it easier to move goods across the border."

Last month, the UK government pledged £30 million 
for reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. About £4 
billion has been promised by foreign donors.

Sir Nick Young, chief executive of the British 
Red Cross, said: "This is not a job for aid 
agencies alone. Humanitarian action is vital, but 
insufficient to resolve the crisis.

"Ordinary Gazans have struggled under 18 months 
of restrictions, making daily life almost 
impossible - access to healthcare, petrol, 
electricity, secure food supplies - things we take for granted.

"The task of reconstruction is daunting. However, 
the truth is that efforts to rebuild Gaza can 
only succeed if accompanied by credible political steps to resolve the crisis."

Last week, a spokesman for the White House in the 
United States announced that the leaders of 
Israel, Egypt and the Palestinians have been 
invited for talks in Washington in a new push for 
peace. The talks are likely to take place by early June.

Ahmed Youssef, a senior adviser to Ismail Haniye, 
the Hamas prime minister, described as "accurate" 
Ms Reddick's assessment that Gaza is on the verge 
of humanitarian disaster because of Israeli strictures.

"Sometimes the Israelis try to deceive the world 
community by letting some lorries cross, but 
their policy is to keep us on the brink of 
collapse all of the time," said Mr Youssef.

However, Yariv Ovadia, a spokesman for the 
Israeli foreign ministry, denied this, saying: 
"We closely monitor the humanitarian situation in 
Gaza and we don't see the situation getting close to a crisis."
About 120 lorry loads of humanitarian supplies 
cross into Gaza on a daily basis, according to the defense ministry.

Mr Ovadia said the restrictions "are mostly on 
equipment that is not used for humanitarian aid".




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