By Margaret Besheer, Voice of America, March 25, 2009
The United Nations top political official says that in the two months since unilateral cease-fires ended a 22-day Israeli offensive against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, the situation remains fraught with "impasse and uncertainty."
Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday that little progress has been made on key issues between the Palestinians and Israelis, including on establishing a proper cease-fire, free access for humanitarian aid, opening crossing points, prevention of arms smuggling and intra-Palestinian reconciliation.
Pascoe told the Security Council that the situation at the crossing points into Gaza is "intolerable." He said it remains the key obstacle to bringing help and hope to people there.
He said that between February 15 and March 21, more than 3,600 truckloads of supplies entered Gaza. But while there has been an increase in the amount of goods getting in, Pascoe said the quantity and quality are insufficient compared to what is needed.
"Roughly 85 percent of all imports consisted of foodstuffs and medical supplies, whereas construction materials, spare parts and other industrial goods remain almost totally banned," he said.
Pascoe said there also continue to be severe shortages of industrial and cooking fuel, as well as cash.
He urged Israel to abide by its obligations under international humanitarian law and open the crossings for emergency supplies and reconstruction materials, saying that without those supplies there would be no way to rebuild Gaza.