UNITED NATIONS, Nov 27 (APP): The head of the U.N. agency tasked with helping Palestinian refugees said Tuesday that the ceasefire halting the recent conflict between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza offered a chance to ‘address the real problems underlying the crisis’.It is of crucial importance that we seize the opportunity provided by this tragic escalation, the Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA), Filippo Grandi, said in remarks at a meeting of the body’s Advisory Commission, taking place by the Dead Sea in Jordan, according to a news release issued at UN Headquarters in New York. Difficult political work would have to be carried out, including promoting and supporting lasting Palestinian unity, he noted in reference to divisions among the wider Palestinian leadership, according to an UNRWA news release.
But failing to act now will
have dire consequences, he added. The ceasefire between Israel and
Hamas, which controls Gaza, was announced on 21 November, just over a
week after the start of the latest wave of deadly violence, which
included massive Israeli airstrikes on targets in the Strip.In his
remarks, Grandi also noted that an Israeli blockade on Gaza, imposed
since 2007, was illegal, and the ‘greatest danger is to return to the
status quo ante, and restore the prison-like conditions of Gaza.
said it would be ‘only a matter of time (until) violence resumes’ if
there was such a return. Grandi called for the blockade, which Israel
has reportedly said it maintains for security reasons, to be lifted in
all its aspects.
He mentioned crossings, fishing zones, imports and
exports as aspects of the blockade in need of address, and said there
should be proper guarantees given to and by all parties in respect of
the security of all civilians.
Created by the UN General Assembly in
1949, UNWRA is the main provider of education, health, social and other
basic services to the five million registered Palestinian refugees in
Gaza, West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
The refugees trace their
roots to those displaced amid the Arab-Israeli hostilities of 1948. The
Assembly created the Advisory Commission, which comprises 25 UN Member
States and three Observer entities, to ‘advise and assist’ UNWRA.
Saturday, UNWRA said it re-opened all but two of its 245 schools in
Gaza, according to the agency. It added that all 21 of its health
centres resumed operations on Sunday, while it also named three
crossings into the Strip that were open.
The fragile calm in Gaza
seems to hold, UNRWA said in a situation report,while also highlighting
that a Palestinian youth was killed and 19 other people injured on
Friday by fire from the Israel troops.
The people of Gaza used the
official holiday on Friday to mourn their beloved ones, to rest, and to
somehow find a way back into daily life, the report noted.
heavy winter storms, accompanied by strong winds, rain, and cold
temperatures, brought further hardship to all those living in damaged
Grandi also briefed the Commission on UNRWA’s work amid the
crisis in Syria, where many of UNRWA’s beneficiaries are located and
where violence since an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad
began over 20 months ago has killed at least 20,000 people, mostly
civilians, and spawned more than 440,000 refugees.
the welfare of the half-million Palestine refugees there have grown as
they are increasingly affected by the conflict, the Commissioner-General
said. UNRWA’s strategy in Syria, as in Gaza, is to be there, to
maintain services, and to address the growing emergency needs as much as