Ban Ki-moon in Gaza to listen to the people

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Gaza this week as Israel allowed large amounts of construction material to enter the area.

Ban entered the Gaza Strip through the Erez crossing on Oct. 14 as part of his visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority to observe conditions in the wake of Israel’s war this summer with Hamas, which resulted in the deaths of more than 2,000 Palestinians and 73 Israelis, as well as substantial damage to buildings and infrastructure in Gaza.

The U.N. leader’s visit came as Israel announced that more reconstruction supplies would be allowed to flow into the strip.

Initial reports indicated that there has already been some loosening of restrictions, with goods being able to leave Gaza for the West Bank for the first time in years, the news site middleeasteye.net reported. Gisha, an Israeli nonprofit, reported that two truckloads of goods were allowed to leave from Gaza for the West Bank for the first time since 2007.

On Oct. 13, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said that the “border crossings are still in our hands,” although he stressed that Israel would continue to work with the United Nations and the Palestinian Authority to kick-start the reconstruction process.

Ban said he was visiting the enclave, which is controlled by Hamas since it seized power there in 2007, to “listen directly to the people of Gaza,” worldbulletin.net quoted him as saying.

Ban’s visit followed an international donors conference in Cairo last weekend in which $5.4 billion was raised to help Gaza reconstruction.

During the meeting, which was not attended by Hamas or Israel, it was agreed that the United Nations would supervise the use of any construction material or heavy equipment in the strip to assure that it would not be used to rebuild Hamas tunnels.

In talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Oct. 13, Ban condemned the construction of settlements beyond Israel’s 1967 borders.

“This does not send the right signals, and I urge the government of Israel to reverse these activities,” Ban said. — jta