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Archive for the ‘Gaza News’ Category

I don’t normally blog on issues such as the war in Gaza, preferring to limit myself to issues closer to home and those that I believe in, but this time it was different.  Now that there is a temporary cessation of violence from both sides of the conflict to allow survivors some breathing room to bury their dead and to survey their shattered lives, I ask myself what made me get so caught up in the moment? The sheer brutality of the assault on defenceless civilians is what shocked me initially but as I followed the news reports online, I found a different kind of story unfolding, that of Israel’s consistent and remorseless spin-doctoring, with officials churning out the same message time and again – that Hamas is at fault for Israel’s brutality. In so doing, were they expecting the world to understand and to forgive them for their merciless attack on Gaza?  

I have always been more of a pacifist and don’t often get overly concerned with issues such as this faraway war in Gaza but as the death toll rose, I began to take notice and soon realised that Malaysian TV and newspapers just wasn’t giving enough insights into what was happening, focusing too much on our national outrage, Islam versus Jew, boycott of US and Israeli goods, the gruesome deaths  and  fund raising for Palestinians instead of the “what, why and how-come-it-was-allowed-to-happen” aspects of the war. So, I turned to the internet and, in spite of the huge amount of crap people have posted in that free-for-all communication medium, there was still a lot of information that showed that this war was the most ruthless in modern times.

With so much having been written and said by the world media and while analysts and experts dissect every aspect of the aftermath, to me it was the over-spindoctoring of Israel’s public relations machinery that made me so sick with disgust. In the age of the internet, events are harder to conceal from the world  as people post first hand experiences, photos taken from handphones and personal opinions on the internet via blogs, facebook, and emails that help to counter whatever propaganda being churned out by Israel’s powerful spokespersons unit.

For me, it was Israel’s overkill in consistently repeating the same versions of their message,  whether it was Mark Regev, or Tzipi Livni, or Avital Leibovith, that made them seem coldhearted, rehearsed and robotic and that was what shocked me most of all. In their own minds the Israelis have dehumanised the war and the death toll of Palestinian civilians meant nothing more than collateral damage. In justifying the war as an act of self-defence and by blaming Hamas, they can all sleep better at night. But the world will never forget and will never forgive them for their inhumanity.

This will be my last post on Gaza. In blogging about the war, I have learnt more about the crucial roles played by the media, humanitarian agencies and international diplomacy. I have also learnt that admidst the cruelty inflicted by man upon their fellow human beings, the true heroes of the war are the doctors who worked tirelessly to save lives as well as the aid workers who risked life and limb to rescue the injured and to bring food and other humanitarian aid to the survivors.

For the first time, I understood the importance of getting the truth out to the world and that global outrage can put an end to a senseless war that should never have happened. In my blog, I salute them as well as all those journalists who covered this humanitarian catastrophe for their courage to report the truth. In the court of public opinion, Israel has clearly lost the war, 

     

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A palestinian doctor who works in Israel’s Beer Shevas Soroka hospital Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish lost three of his daughters in Israel’s attack on Gaza. He held a press conference to talk about his grief but was interrupted by an Israeli mother of three IDF soldiers who objected to what he was saying.

This Al Jazeera report shows the call Dr Ezzeldeen made to Israel’s Channel 10 TV station that was broadcast live and drew sympathy from  viewers. However, the situation seems to have changed at his press conference as shown in the above videoclip. 

If you noticed, there has always been a consistent message churned out by Israeli officials and their spokespersons, that Isreal acted in self-defence and the more than 1,000 civilian deaths was the fault of Hamas. If you hear the same message repeated often enough you will begin to believe it. This article “Mass Media Brainwashing” explains the technique used by the Nazi’s in “repeating simple-minded lies over and over for months and years, until the lies take on a life of their own.”

“The rank and file are usually much more primitive than we imagine. Propaganda must therefore always be essentially simple and repetitious. The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly… it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.”— Joseph Goebbels Nazi Propaganda Minister

“How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don’t think.” — Adolf Hitler

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Al Jazeera reports that despite unilateral “ceasefire”, Israel military activity seen in Gaza

Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announces unilateral ceasefire

Response from Hamas representative Osama Hamdan

Reuters reports here that Israel said on Sunday it will be prepared to sharply increase the flow of food and medicine to Gaza if a unilateral ceasefire holds, but it ruled out fully lifting a blockade until a captured Israeli soldier is freed.

Lifting the blockade was one of Hamas’s chief demands for entering into a ceasefire.

“If the quiet holds, there will not be any problem dramatically increasing aid like food and medicine. If this quiet holds, we will work with the international community for reconstruction,” said Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

“But you can’t have anything close to full normalization of the crossings as long as Gilad Shalit remains a hostage,” Regev added. Shalit was captured in a cross-border raid in 2006.

Press statement from Committee to Protect Journalists (http://cpj.org) :

CPJ urges Olmert to lift Gaza press ban
January 17, 2009

Ehud Olmert
Prime Minister
3 Kaplan Street
Hakirya
Israel

Via e-mail: pm_eng@pmo.gov.il

Dear Prime Minister Olmert,

Since the Israeli military campaign began last month, international journalists have been denied independent access to Gaza. Your government has offered various explanations for its decision to ban the international press, but the primary justifications have been a professed concern for the safety of reporters themselves and a concern that the mere presence of the press could interfere with ongoing military operations.

While the Committee to Protect Journalists has never viewed these as legitimate reasons for blocking press access to Gaza, we note that the new cease-fire agreement makes them entirely obsolete. We urge your government to immediately lift the ban and allow international journalists to independently report on events in Gaza.

CPJ has raised our concerns previously with your government. On January 6, we wrote to Defense Minister Ehud Barak to ask that your government allow international journalists into Gaza. We have also sought an explanation for the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) bombings of two buildings that house international media organizations in Gaza City.

Now that active hostilities have ceased we urge you to conduct a prompt investigation into the targeting of all media facilities in Gaza. We ask that the investigation into these incidents be prompt and comprehensive and we ask that you make your findings public.

We recognize that the situation on the ground remains tenuous, but as an organization of journalists we believe there are critical issues of international law that impact not only the work of journalists in Gaza but in conflict zones around the world.

International human rights law dictates that the press may be denied access to war zones for only the narrowest and most specific of security reasons. The Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information of 1995, a synthesis of international law and state practices, states that governments “may not exclude journalists … from areas that are experiencing violence or armed conflict except where their presence would pose a clear risk to the safety of others.” It adds that the “burden of demonstrating the validity of the restriction rests with the government.” A general ban clearly violates this standard.

As noted, we also call on you to provide an explanation for the IDF’s bombing of Al-Johara and Al-Shuruq towers, which house dozens of international media organizations. The two attacks, which were carried out respectively on January 9 and 15, destroyed communications equipment and injured at least three journalists. International law provides explicit protections for journalists and media installations that may not be abrogated even during military operations.       

Thank you for your attention to these urgent matters.

Sincerely,

Joel Simon
Executive Director

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(source: www.icrc.org)

17-01-2009  Interview  
Phosphorous weapons – the ICRC’s view
phyPeter Herby, head of the ICRC’s Arms Unit, outlines the rules applicable to phosphorous weapons to explain the organization’s approach to the issue.

Peter Herby, head of the ICRC’s Arms Unit Has the use of white phosphorous weapons by Israel in the current conflict in Gaza been confirmed?
Yes. According to widespread media reports, images and analysis from credible experts, phosphorous weapons have been used in the conflict.

What are the rules of international humanitarian law applicable to the use of phosphorous weapons and intended to spare civilians?
Let me begin by saying that there are fundamental rules stipulating that civilians must be protected from the effects of all military operations and that attacking civilians with any weapon is categorically prohibited.

The use of weapons containing white phosphorous is, like the use of any other weapon, regulated by the basic rules of international humanitarian law. These require parties to a conflict to discriminate between military objectives on the one hand and civilians and civilian objects on the other. The law also requires that they take all feasible precautions to prevent harm to civilians and civilian objects that can result from military operations. Attacks which cause “disproportionate” damage to civilians and to civilian objects are prohibited.

Using white phosphorous as an incendiary weapon, i.e. to set fire to military targets, is subject to further restrictions. The use of such white phosphorous weapons against any military objective within concentrations of civilians is prohibited unless the military objective is clearly separated from the civilians. The use of air-dropped incendiary weapons against military objectives within a concentration of civilians is simply prohibited. These prohibitions are contained in Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

In addition, customary international humanitarian law, which is applicable to all parties to any conflict, requires that particular care must be taken when attacking a military target with incendiary weapons containing white phosphorous, in order to avoid harm to civilians and damage to civilian objects. If this substance is used against fighters, the party using it is obliged to assess whether a less harmful weapon can be used to put the fighters out of action.

If munitions containing white phosphorous are used to mark military targets or to spread smoke then their use is regulated by the basic rules of international humanitarian law.

The fact that international humanitarian law does not specifically prohibit phosphorous weapons does not imply that any specific use of weapons containing this substance is legal. The legality of each incident of use has to be considered in light of all of the fundamental rules I have mentioned. It may be legal or not, depending on a variety of factors.

Does the ICRC consider white phosphorous weapons as they have been used in Gaza to be legal under international humanitarian law?
If ICRC delegates in the field gather credible and precise evidence of violations, or if ICRC medical personnel corroborate reports by others, the ICRC would begin by discussing this with the party concerned – rather than speaking publicly – in keeping with our standard practices. We have not commented publicly on the legality of the current use of phosphorous weapons by Israel, contrary to what has been attributed to us in recent media reports.

Does the use of weapons containing white phosphorous, in particular incendiary weapons, in a populated area give rise to any specific humanitarian concerns?
Yes. White phosphorous weapons spread burning phosphorous, which burns at over 800 degrees centigrade (about 1,500 degrees fahrenheit), over a wide area, up to several hundred square metres. The burning will continue until the phosphorous has been completely depleted or until it no longer is exposed to oxygen. The weapon has a potential to cause particularly horrific and painful injuries or slow painful death. Medical personnel must be specially trained to treat such injuries and may themselves be exposed to phosphorous burns. If used against military targets in or near populated areas, weapons containing this substance must be used with extreme caution to prevent civilian casualties

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If you cannot see the subtitles do the following:
1. Play the video
2. Click the triangle button at the bottom-right corner of the video
3. Click the Turn on captions button that looks like the letters CC.

I began blogging on the Gaza humanitarian crisis because, having become totally dissatisfied with mainstream media coverage, I wanted to share YouTube videoclips and official press statements that I found on the internet that gives a clearer picture of what was happening in Gaza. I have refrained from posting sensationalised violence, ideologies or malicious views as I hoped visitors would draw their own conclusions from what you see and read here.

Earlier, I had written an open letter to Malia and Sasha Obama here to express my own grief and sorrow at the senseless killing of innocents in Gaza. This was in response to President-Elect Barack Obama’s open letter to his daughters here to explain his reasons for running for the presidency. Yet, the soon to be sworn in President of the United States of America has already disappointed me and millions of others for he has steadfastly remained silent, aside from some feeble non-comments, on the issue of Gaza’s humanitarian crisis and the death of more than 1,000 Palestians, including women and children.

While I don’t expect Obama to clash with outgoing President Bush on issues of foreign policy but, like the good parent that he appears to be, the least he could do is put forward a stronger statement in empathy for the senseless loss of lives. How can this heavy handed massacre of human beings even be called an act of self-defence? As Helen Thomas mentioned in my earlier post here, as President, Obama “needs a lot more courage” to speak out on Gaza. The world is waiting!

As a father, he will surely empathise with the heartwrenching grief of Dr Izz el-Deen Aboul Aish, a Palestinian gynecologist living in Gaza whose three daughters Bisan, 22; Mayer, 15; and Aya, 14 were killed when the Israeli army bombed his home. His cries was telecast live via Israel’s TV as shown in the YouTube videoclip (source: here). Read the story here.             

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Excerpt of Democracy Now Amy Goodman’s interview with veteran White House Correspondent Helen Thomas

Source of transcript:  www.democracynow.org Read full interview here 

helenthomas_mdHelen Thomas, served as White House correspondent for United Press International for almost sixty years and has covered every president since Kennedy. She is the most senior member of the White House press corps and is commonly referred to as “The First Lady of the Press.” Helen is currently a syndicated columnist for Hearst Newspapers. Her latest column is called “History Cannot Save Him.”

AMY GOODMAN: Helen Thomas, what would you have asked President Bush if you got a chance yesterday? Did you expect that he would call on you?

HELEN THOMAS: No, but I wish that he had, because I would have—I mean, I would have asked a news question. I would not have gone into the nostalgia, though I’m not criticizing it, because I do think the reporters had to wrap up to find out what he really thought about himself and his legacy. But I would have asked why—why do you continue to support the killing in Gaza? And that’s what we’re doing.

I mean, you can’t remain neutral. I remember the rabbi who spoke at the Martin Luther King march on Washington. Heschel had a cameo appearance, and he said, “The greatest sin of all in the Nazi era was silence.” When you remain silent to the suffering and the incredible aggression against a people, then you are culpable.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you cover the march on Washington in 1963, when Martin Luther King spoke?

HELEN THOMAS: I did, I did. Not on spot, but I was there, certainly. And I was, of course, entranced with this “I Have a Dream.” And it’s amazing that I think maybe this dream is actually coming true, although I do think that President Obama, to be, needs a lot more courage.

AMY GOODMAN: Helen Thomas, we’re going to break. Then we’re going to come back to this conversation. Known as the First Lady of the Press Corps, she has covered nine presidents. As of next Tuesday, it will be ten. We’ll be back with Helen Thomas in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Helen Thomas, UPI correspondent for almost sixty years now, writes a column for King Features.

When I said “First Lady of the Press Corps,” you shook your head, Helen Thomas. Why?

HELEN THOMAS: There’s no such thing. It’s nice to have a title like that, but it’s not real.

AMY GOODMAN: For many years, you threw out the first question at the news conferences. I wanted to go back to the issue of Gaza. You asked White House Press Secretary Dana Perino last week about Gaza. This is an excerpt of your exchange.

HELEN THOMAS: Why is the President letting more people be killed in this situation, instead of going for a ceasefire and calling for restraint, as they have in the past, on both sides?

DANA PERINO: We are calling for a durable ceasefire. That’s what we were trying to establish.

HELEN THOMAS: But why don’t you call it today and stop people from being killed?

DANA PERINO: Well, I think, Helen, strong views are held on this by all sides. We believe that Israel has a right to defend itself, and—

HELEN THOMAS: Do the Gazans have a right to defend themselves?

DANA PERINO: I think that what the Gazans deserve is a chance to live in peace and security. What President Bush has worked for is a chance to establish a two-state solution, so that the Palestinians could have their own state, so that they could live in their own democracy. And that’s what President Abbas, who is the president of all Palestinians, has been working towards.

HELEN THOMAS: The President did not recognize their election, which was fair and square under international law, as observers—

DANA PERINO: Look, when—the President did call for the—did support the elections. And when the elections were held, I don’t think that Hamas was elected because they said, “Vote for us, we’ll take you to war” or “We’ll hold you hostage” or “We’ll send rockets into Israel every day.” But they won because they were tired—the people of—the Palestinians, people of Gaza, were frustrated with the services that they were getting from the Fatah party, which was a wake-up call for the Fatah party as well. And they have worked to try to improve what they could provide governance-wise for all of the Palestinians.

HELEN THOMAS: So knowing that, why did the US cut off all relation—all aid to the people?

DANA PERINO: We certainly have not done that to the people of Gaza. We do not deal with the terrorist organizations, of which Hamas is designated as one.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Dana Perino answering Helen Thomas’s question last week.

I wanted to ask you, Helen Thomas, about Scott McClellan, the former White House press secretary who became a vocal critic after stepping down, a critic of the Bush administration. I interviewed him last June. He spoke about your role in the White House press corps.

SCOTT McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, I think we need more Helen Thomases in the press corps, both the national press corps, even in the White House press corps, as well. She is someone who is not afraid to ask the tough questions and hold people accountable for the decisions that are made. So I think that’s important to state right up front.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Scott McClellan after he stepped down as press secretary. Helen Thomas, are you surprised by his praise?

HELEN THOMAS: Somewhat, having been called Hezbollah and everything else probably. Well, I mean, I suppose it’s the position that you’re trying—if you—how can you speak for the President of the United States? I mean, you cannot go off the curve. And so, everything is forgivable. And you always have to understand what position a spokesperson is in. I think it’s the toughest job in the White House being a spokesperson for the President and for American policy, which is sometimes very unacceptable.

AMY GOODMAN: What is your assessment of the White House press corps? Has it changed over the decades? And what did you think of the White House press corps that covered—all of the press covering President Bush?

HELEN THOMAS: I think they lost their guts after 9/11. No one wanted to ask penetrating questions for fear of being called un-American, unpatriotic. And I think their publishers, wherever they are, maybe Wall Street and so forth, were saying, “Lay off. You know, we’re all Americans, and we have to stick together no matter what.” So I don’t think reporters should—I mean, obviously, the ideal is to seek the truth, no matter where the chips fall.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to a late White House press secretary. That was Tony Snow. In 2006, you questioned him about the US response to the Israeli attack on Lebanon. This is the exchange.

HELEN THOMAS: The United States is not that helpless. It could have stopped the bombardment of Lebanon. We have that much control with the Israelis.

TONY SNOW: I don’t think so, Helen.

HELEN THOMAS: We have gone for collective punishment against all of Lebanon and Palestine.

TONY SNOW: No, what’s interesting, Helen—

HELEN THOMAS: And this is what’s happening, and that’s the perception of the United States.

TONY SNOW: Well, thank you for the Hezbollah view, but I would encourage you—

HELEN THOMAS: Nobody is accepting your explanation. What is restraint? You call for restraint.

TONY SNOW: Well, I’ll tell you, what’s interesting, Helen, is people have. The G8 was completely united on this. And as you know, when it comes to issues of—

HELEN THOMAS: And we stopped a ceasefire. Why?

TONY SNOW: We didn’t stop a ceasefire. Let me just tell you—I’ll tell you what.

HELEN THOMAS: We vetoed—

TONY SNOW: We didn’t even veto. Please get your facts right.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Tony Snow. Your response, Helen Thomas?

HELEN THOMAS: My response is I was right to press him. I think that, you know, any world leader, no matter who’s right and who’s wrong, you stop the killing of innocent people. And all the people really are basically innocent, on all sides.

AMY GOODMAN: Helen Thomas, you were born in Kentucky, your parents, Lebanese Christians. Your Arab American background, do you think that informs—or how does it inform your reporting?

HELEN THOMAS: Of course. I have a background and an understanding of what’s happened in the Middle East that a lot of people don’t have, because there’s been no interest. But why shouldn’t I project some of my feelings and so forth? I mean, I have that right, as an opinion column. But also, I hope I seek justice. And I don’t think that I go off the highway.

AMY GOODMAN: You have covered, well, starting Tuesday, ten presidents. You were the only woman on Nixon’s flight to China. What was it like to cover Richard Nixon?

HELEN THOMAS: I wasn’t the only woman. I was the only woman—

AMY GOODMAN: Only woman reporter.

HELEN THOMAS: Yes, in the print department. There was one woman in radio and Barbara Walters for TV. So, there were other women in that respect. What was—pardon me, I—what was your question?

AMY GOODMAN: What was it like to cover Richard Nixon going to China and also his demise?

HELEN THOMAS: Well, it was thrilling, because every reporter in Washington wanted to be on that trip, maybe in the whole country, because we knew it was a tremendous historical event, that it was a breakthrough, twenty-year hiatus in relations with China. Everything—nobody knew anything about what was happening, except CIA and India, and so forth, surrounding countries. So we knew that we would be really writing history. And it was really like landing on the moon. Everything was a story—what the people ate, what they looked like, what they wore, and so forth. Well, I can assure you, we had a field day for eight days.

AMY GOODMAN: And now, will you be covering the inauguration of the forty-forth president, of Barack Obama?

HELEN THOMAS: I’ll be writing a column about it and his speech and so forth, but I won’t be doing the minute-to-minute. I will be seeing what everybody else is seeing, I hope, mostly on TV.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, what advice do you have for young journalists?

HELEN THOMAS: Go for it. It’s the greatest profession in the world. You’re making a real contribution to democracy by keeping people informed. And have some courage to tell the truth. I think it’s difficult at times. There are many barriers, but go for it. It’s a great, great profession.

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Rob Reynolds, Al Jazeera’s senior Washington correspondent, gives his personal take on the key moments of George Bush’s eight-year presidency.

16 January 2009

UNITED NATIONS PRESS CONFERENCE on humanitarian situation in Gaza (Source here)

The death toll in the Gaza Strip, according to figures from the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Health, now stood at 1,115 people, including 370 children, the Director of Operations in Gaza of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) told correspondents today.

Giving his daily briefing via video link, John Ging said 5,015 people, including 1,745 children, had been injured since the Israeli campaign had started 21 days ago.  Overnight, there had been 65 casualties, including 24 children, and 115 people, including 38 children, had been injured.  Displaced people seeking refuge in 49 UNRWA schools and other facilities had risen overnight by some 4,000 people to a total of 49,000.

He said UNRWA’s preoccupation today had been recovery from the shelling of its compound yesterday.  Although the fire in the compound was still burning, it was under control.  Operations were up and running again, but food distribution to Palestinian refugees in Gaza had been interrupted for one day.  People in shelters had been served, he added, stressing that the Agency would be fully operational by tomorrow. 

As he had visited some of the shelters, the overwhelming impression was one of fear.  People facing the dilemma of going home or staying in the shelter often felt it was too dangerous to leave.  UNRWA, however, could not promise a safe haven, but assured them its staff was there for the long haul, “however long that might be.”  That reassurance was a source of confidence to the people taking shelter.

He said there was increasing hope that ongoing discussions, in which the Secretary-General was participating, would lead to a solution.  It was important to keep up the urgency and the momentum to that end.  If not, the children that were alive today could be dead tomorrow.  Destroyed infrastructures could be repaired, but life could not be restored.

Answering correspondents’ questions about yesterday’s shelling of the UNRWA compound, he said all the Agency’s stockpiles of food and medicines had been lost, which amounted to tons of food and about one full day of supplies, as supplies were daily transported to food distribution points.  UNRWA was feeding some 750,000 refugees in Gaza and providing medical services to 1 million more.  Operations had been moved to different warehouses, the location of which had been conveyed to Israeli authorities in a transparent manner.  Militants or Israeli military could not be seen from the compound.  There had been reports that they had been very close, but that they now had retreated.

As for injuries caused by the use of phosphorous gas, he said there were no figures available in that regard.  No United Nations staff had been injured in the attack on the compound, but the use of shells had created massive problems.  He could not go into the legality of the use of phosphorous, but he was of the opinion that international law and international humanitarian law was applicable in the whole world.

Ultimately, one could not measure armed actions of one side against the armed actions of the other side.  The armed action had to be measured against international law.  The situation was “not just a test of our humanity, but also of our ability to have international law applied during conflict”, he said.  Each side had to be held accountable for their own actions.

Asked if the compound was safe now, he said he had from the beginning stressed that nobody was safe in Gaza.  What had happened yesterday at the United Nations compound was the same plight facing everybody in Gaza on a daily basis:  “We are all in the same boat,” he said.

He could not comment on reports that the Security Management Team for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza would authorize the voluntary relocation of staff working for the United Nations to the West Bank via Israel or Egypt.  UNRWA’s policy was to keep operations going and to keep the required staff on hand to do that.  There had been no change in the number of people working, he added.

Most people in the northern areas of the Gaza Strip had been cut off from UNRWA, he answered to a question about access to people outside the shelters.  Together with the Red Cross and Red Crescent, UNRWA was trying to notify Israel of that situation, reminding it of its obligations to those people.  Even during the daily three-hour ceasefire, it was impossible for trucks and cars to reach those areas, as roads had been destroyed by shelling or ripped up by tank treads.

As for the 500 patients who had to be moved from the Al Quds Hospital after it had been shelled, he said they had been transferred to other hospitals.  UNRWA had not been able to help because it did not have any medicine.  The Red Cross had assisted in coordinating the transfers. 

Addressing a question about the situation of pregnant women in Gaza, he said there were no exact statistics on that vulnerable group, but the 20 UNRWA clinics had records of pregnant refugees.  The Agency was working proactively to ensure that, at the due date, those women would be where they had to be.

Asked about the cash situation in Gaza, Mr. Ging said UNRWA not only had problems paying its employees’ salaries, but also could not give cash supplements to those 94,000 Palestinian refugees who needed it.  He had, however, received confirmation that Israel had approved entry of cash for the UNRWA, but modalities still had to be worked out.

It was not a matter of blaming one side or the other, Mr. Ging told another correspondent.  It was not whether the population blamed Hamas or Israel for the trouble they were in.  It was about fear.  The population was shell shocked, traumatized and in real fear.  With the ongoing negotiations, however, they had a glimmer of hope.  One could not predict if the conflict was in its end game.  There was hope, in great part because of the Secretary-General’s efforts.

There was an innumerable amount of people who would have to be treated for shock, he continued, underscoring that it would be one of the biggest challenges to face.  The children had been particularly traumatized and would need psycho-social treatment once the schools were reopened for education — not shelter.

“The dead children,” Mr. Ging said when asked for the most outrageous incident he had seen.  Also the children whose life had been ruined because of amputations and other injuries, he added.

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