Haaretz, April 3, 2009 - The top United Nations aid official in the Gaza Strip urged Israel on Friday to ease restrictions on the flow of goods into the conflict-torn territory, saying they were "devastating" for the people.
"It's wholly and totally inadequate," John Ging, head of the UN Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, said about the amount of goods Israel permits into the territory, where some 1.5 million Palestinians live.
"It's having a very devastating impact on the physical circumstances and also the mindset of people on the ground," he said.
Ging said access to goods was still a severe problem.
"We need access," he said. "It's the number one issue. It's the number two issue. It's the number three issue, and so on. Until we get it, there's nothing as important as solving the access issue."
Israel fears opening the borders would allow Hamas to smuggle more weapons and ammunition into the territory.
Ging said that all the crossing points from Israel into the Gaza Strip should be opened, and those that were currently opened in a limited way to only elected people or goods should be fully opened.
In addition to restrictions on what it deems luxury goods, such as cigarettes and chocolates, Israel has blocked entry of materials such as cement and steel for rebuilding because it says they could be used for bunkers and rearming....