UN official: Gaza faces humanitarian catastrophe

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Although Israel briefly lifted its blockade of crossings in the Gaza Strip today, United Nations (UN) officials warn that a further blockade could lead to dire consequences for some 750,000 Gazans who rely on UN food aid. Israel blockaded the Gaza Strip in early November, preventing access for UN aid workers and journalists.

The border crossing was opened to allow some food aid and medical supplies through, however, United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) spokesman Christopher Gunness warned that "it is just not enough."

Map showing location of the Gaza Strip

The UNRWA also warns that Gaza faces "a humanitarian catastrophe." Karen Abu Zayd, commissioner general of UNRWA, said the death toll since the beginning of the Israeli blockade is the gravest since the early days of the Palestinian intifada eight years ago. The Israeli blockade has shut down power for the Gaza Strip, and patients at local hospitals are in grave risk of death because of faulty generators.

"Almost every part of the intensive care unit runs on electricity which comes from Gaza's main power plant [...] that plant is run on fuel from Israel, but no supplies have reached the plant for well over a week now," said Al Jazeera's correspondent in Gaza.

Israel closed the Gaza Strip on November 5 because of rocket fire emanating from the area after the Israeli army units entered and carried out an operation against members of the Hamas combat wing. Currently all foreign journalists are banned from entering Gaza. AP, Reuters, the New York Times, the BBC, CNN and other major news organizations have protested the blockade.