UNITED NATIONS : Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the humanitarian pause in Gaza which allowed the UN food agency and partners to provide aid to thousands of people, while expressing his hope that this will lead to a more durable calm.
In a statement issued Thursday by his spokesperson, the secretary-general said the temporary ceasefire, which was brokered by the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, “allowed people to resume some daily routines and start repairs to electrical and water infrastructure,” while civilians in Israel “had a reprieve from rocket fire.”
But the UN chief made no reference to Israel’s threat to launch a ground invasion of Gaza.
A senior Israeli military official said on Wednesday evening that only “boots on the ground” could eradicate what he called terrorism from Gaza and indicated that Israel was even considering a long-term reoccupation of the coastal territory.
The five-hour “humanitarian pause”, requested by the UN, started at 10 a.m. local time Thursday and ended at 3pm.
The UN chief voiced appreciation that the pause “has mostly been respected by all parties,” and added that it shows that a cessation of hostilities is possible “if all the parties demonstrate the necessary will and put the interests of civilians, who have borne the brunt of this escalation, first.”
He voiced support for international efforts, led by Egypt, for a sustainable ceasefire, and expressed hope that today’s humanitarian pause can lead to a “more durable calm.”
Israeli-Palestinian violence has flared in the wake of the recent kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank and the subsequent kidnapping and killing of a Palestinian teenager from East Jerusalem.
“It will be crucial to address the underlying factors that have led to the recent escalation,” Ban said, citing governance issues, and the need to bring Gaza back under one legitimate Palestinian Government, among others.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is distributing emergency food vouchers in areas where shops are functioning so that people can get food and shops can get funds at a time when banks in Gaza are closed.
The agency said it took advantage of the humanitarian pause to transport food, including wheat flour, bread and canned tuna, from its warehouses ready for distribution to 85,000 people in the next days as security conditions permit.
“The food needs in Gaza are urgent,” WFP Country Director Pablo Recalde said. “We are seeing the effectiveness of WFP’s food assistance programmes, which provides the opportunity for a rapid response and flexibility to scale-up emergency food assistance if the need arises.”
Since the latest wave of fighting began, the agency provided emergency food rations and vouchers to more than 20,000 displaced people. It has appealed for $20 million to continue its food assistance programmes to more than 600,000 of the most vulnerable people in the area.