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12 Jul, 2015

UNRWA Commissioner General: Root Causes of Gaza Conflict Remain Unaddressed

JERUSALEM, July 8, 2015 (WAFA) – Commissioner General of the UNRWA, Pierre Krahenbuhl, said in a Wednesday statement that a year after the Israeli devastating war on Gaza, which claimed the lives of thousands of innocent people, the root causes of the conflict remain unaddressed.

He said, “The despair, destitution and denial of dignity resulting from last year’s war and from the blockade are a fact of life for ordinary people in Gaza.”

“Coming in addition to high levels of unemployment and lack of prospects for Gaza’s youth, this situation represents a time-bomb for the region,” he stressed.

“The physical and psychological scars are everywhere to be seen in the Gaza Strip. Countless children live with the traumas endured during the war and over a thousand live with what will be life-long disabilities,” he added.

He noted that 315 days following the ceasefire signed in August 26, 2014 and, “not a single totally destroyed house, of which there are over twelve thousand, has been rebuilt,” leaving some 120,000 people homeless.

Krahenbuhl called for an intensified political action on a number of fronts to achieve the “necessary change of paradigm” in the Strip, which he stressed could be achieved through lifting the Israeli blockade, ensuring rights and security for all, and allowing increased exports from Gaza to stimulate economic recovery and freedom of movement for civilians.”

While some steps have been taken in recent weeks, he said, they fall far short of what is needed to bring about fundamental change in the lives of the population.

He stressed the needs for accountability for international law violations in the 2014 conflict, adding that investigations must be carried out in accordance with international standards.

“ Victims of violations should be promptly and adequately compensated and have access to an effective remedy.”

He added that “in the middle of Gaza’s dire circumstances, hope is a commodity in short supply and yet so crucially important.”

“In an increasingly unstable Middle-East, neglecting the needs and rights of the people of Gaza is a risk the world should not be taking.”

The 50 day conflict last year saw 2,262 Palestinian killed of which 1,500 were civilians, including 551 children and 305 women. 71 Israelis were killed of which 66 were soldiers and 1 was a child, according to UNRWA statistics.

Around 138 students attending UNRWA schools lost their lives and at least 814 were injured. Of the more than 11,000 people injured in Gaza, 1,000 are children who have permanent disability.

The destruction of property was on a massive scale. At the height of the conflict over half a million displaced people fled attack – nearly 300,000 of whom took shelter in 90 UNRWA schools; six times the number during the 2008/9 conflict.

UNRWA estimates that nearly 140,000 houses were either damaged or totally destroyed and that the present pace of reconstruction must accelerate if Gaza is ever to be rebuilt.