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UN chief calls on Hamas to immediately end rocket attacks on Israel
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09:14, December 25, 2008

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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Wednesday called on Hamas to ensure an immediate end to rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel and urged all parties to work urgently to ease humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip, including the continuous flow of needed supplies.

"The secretary-general is gravely concerned about the situation in Gaza and southern Israel and the potential for further violence and civilian suffering if calm is not restored," a statement issued by his spokesperson said. "He condemns today's rocket attacks on southern Israel."

Israel kept the crossings into Gaza closed for the eighth consecutive day on Wednesday, cutting off humanitarian supplies, the second longest period they have remained shut since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority in June 2007, the UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) reported. Israel cites the rocket attacks for its closures.

"The ongoing closures have significantly reduced the capacity of UN humanitarian agencies to provide assistance in the event of an escalation in violence," OCHA said. "UN humanitarian assistance programs have run out of stock for several essential supplies and are facing severe difficulties in implementing their regular programs."

A lasting solution to the situation in Gaza can only be attained by peaceful means, Ban said, reiterating calls made earlier this month by the diplomatic group in search of peace in the Middle East, or Quartet, which groups the United Nations, European Union, Russia and the United States. Quartet is championing the Roadmap plan for a two-state solution to the conflict with Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.

At the time the Quartet called for a continuation of the calm between Gaza and southern Israel that expired at the end of last week, and underscored that a lasting solution could only be achieved through peaceful means, with all Palestinians committed to non-violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations. Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Gaza has no flour or cash-notes to distribute, affecting thousands of dependant beneficiaries, while the UN World Food Program (WFP) has been unable to preposition stocks and has no food available in case of an emergency, OCHA reported.

There are shortages of more than 100 essential pharmaceuticals and critical emergency surgical kits, while more than 100 containers of humanitarian aid at Ashdod port in Israel have been cleared for entry into Gaza.

Due to the lack of fuel and spare parts, Gaza power plant has been shut since Dec. 19, affecting all aspects of daily life including sanitation, water and power supply to households, schools, and civilian institutions.

In particular, 60 percent of the Gaza population is receiving running water once every five to seven days. The waste water treatment plant, unable to operate regularly, has since Saturday doubled the amount of raw sewage it is dumping into the sea to 40 million litres per day, OCHA said.


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