Geneva, May 18
The UN humanitarian agency is describing an increasingly dire situation inside the Gaza Strip as the war between Israel and the territory’s Hamas rulers rages with no end in sight.
Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, says nearly 47,000 Palestinians have fled their homes during more than a week of heavy Israeli airstrikes. Hamas and other militants have fired more than 3,400 rockets into Israel.
Laerke says electricity across Gaza is only available for six to eight hours a day.
Citing Palestinian authorities, he said 132 buildings comprising 621 housing and commercial units have been destroyed in Gaza. He says another 316 housing units have been severely damaged and rendered uninhabitable.
Israel and Egypt have imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza since Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007. Israel says the closures are needed to keep the group from rearming, while rights groups view it as a form of collective punishment.
Laerke welcomed Israel’s decision to open Gaza’s main commercial crossing, allowing essential supplies to flow in for the first time since war broke out on May 10.
COGAT, the Israeli military body that coordinates civilian affairs in Gaza, said the crossing was closed after a mortar attack, several hours after it had been opened in order to allow medical equipment in. — AP