Friday 2 January 2009

UN blasts Israel for 'appalling' Gaza situation

The United Nations has disputed assertions in Tel Aviv that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza despite weeklong Israeli raids.

The UN World Food Program (WFP) said Friday that unrelenting Israeli military attacks on the Gaza Strip have triggered destitution and a serious food crisis among the 1.5 million residents of the Palestinian territory.

"The current situation in Gaza is appalling, and many basic food items are no longer available on the market," the World Food Program representative in Gaza, Christine van Nieuwenhuyse, said in a statement.

This comes as Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni rejected French appeals for an emergency forty-eight-hour ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid into the region.

"There is no humanitarian crisis in the Strip, and therefore there is no need for a humanitarian truce," said Livni, adding that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is "completely as it should be".

Nieuwenhuyse responded that she was "furious" by Livni's claims, asserting that WPF stocks in Gaza clearly show a 30 percent deficit of dry goods such as flour and a much greater shortfall of 'ready-to-eat' goods -- which are urgently needed due to the acute shortage of power and gas for cooking.

Israeli air strikes rocked the Gaza Strip for a seventh straight day on Friday. The air attacks have so far left 436 Palestinians dead and more than 2250 wounded -- many of whom are women and children.

The Daily Telegraph reported Thursday that Gazans are currently living in unheated, unlit buildings through fear of being hit by flying shrapnel while others venture out to pick through rubbish scraps to find something to burn as fuel for cooking and heating.

Water is also unavailable to hundreds of thousands of people and there is a very real threat of a health crisis caused by the total collapse of the old and overwhelmed sewage system in Gaza.

Israel's bombing of tunnels, meanwhile, has cut regular diesel and fuel supplies -- which are needed to run backup generators at hospitals, water pumps and sewage pumps.

UN spokesman Chris Gunness has also condemned Israel for attempting to distort the reality about the abysmal humanitarian situation in Gaza.

"When you look at the Israeli assertions about the humanitarian situation, it is very hard to square this with the extraordinarily dire situation on the ground in Gaza,'' he said.

"Any claims about human need at this stage need to be grounded in reality,'' he added.

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