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Middle East: UN Chief Welcomes Temporary Ceasefire

Middle East: UN Chief Welcomes Temporary Ceasefire, Urges Longer-Term Agreement

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks to journalists at the Security Council stakeout on the situation in Gaza, in July 2014. UN Photo/Mark Garten

10 August 2014 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed today's announcement by Egypt that the Israelis and the Palestinians have accepted another 72 hours' unconditional humanitarian ceasefire and urged all concerned to avoid steps that would lead to a resumption of violence.

Mr. Ban expressed “his strong hope that this will give the two sides, under Egyptian auspices, another chance to agree on a durable ceasefire for the benefit of all civilian populations and as a starting point to address the underlying grievances on both sides,” according to a statement from his spokesperson.

He added that the United Nations stands ready to assist in the implementation of an agreement that would consolidate peace and allow for much-needed reconstruction and development of Gaza.

Mr. Ban's Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, has been in Cairo working in support of Egyptian efforts to halt the fighting.

The latest ceasefire began at 12:01 am local time on Monday. It follows a three-day ceasefire that ended on Friday.

The previous ceasefire allowed UN and humanitarian partners to restock food, water and other supplies, and to survey the damages.

At least 1,948 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, have been killed in the conflict, along with 67 Israelis, according to figures cited by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

In addition, some 425,000 people are seeking shelter either in UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) facilities, government shelters or with host families.

Some 11,855 housing units in Gaza have been destroyed or severely damaged by Israeli attacks, and another 36,000 have suffered damage, according to the latest OCHA “Situation Report”. The UN agency estimates that reconstruction and repair costs of these houses will be $410 million.

UNRWA has said it is in a period of multiple and rapid response, working with other UN agencies and the Palestinian Authority on a reconstruction plan.

“We estimate that 70 per cent of all those affected by the housing crisis are refugees and we are responsible for them,” spokesperson Chris Gunness said in an email on Saturday.

There is a need for a broad range of services: rubble removal, reconstruction, repairs, rental subsidies while homes are rebuilt, health including psycho-social support, food, cash and education, Mr. Gunness said.

He added that there is a question of repairing and rebuilding public infrastructure in refugee camps, in particular water, sewage and electricity.

“This is an urgent priority,” the spokesperson said. “Without it people simply cannot go home.”

Mr. Gunness also spoke out about the ongoing blockade again Gaza, stressing that the area has been “leveled” and that “we cannot rebuild it with our hands tied behind our backs.”


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