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Gaza again on brink of disaster, says Scots aid chief


TENS of thousands of people struggling to rebuild their lives in the Gaza Strip after Israel's 22-day military offensive this year will face a second humanitarian disaster within weeks, because aid is not getting through, the Scot heading the British Red Cross international relief effort has warned.
Moira Reddick, the charity's head of disaster management, said blockages at the Israeli border meant civilians were facing spending the summer with its soaring temperatures sheltering under rotting plastic and tents with little or no sanitation, increasing the threat of disease and risk of infection...


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Gaza again on brink of disaster, says Scots aid chief

By SHN ROSS AND BEN LYNFIELD IN JERUSALEM

April 27, 2009

TENS of thousands of people struggling to rebuild their lives in the Gaza Strip after Israel's 22-day military offensive this year will face a second humanitarian disaster within weeks, because aid is not getting through, the Scot heading the British Red Cross international relief effort has warned.
Moira Reddick, the charity's head of disaster management, said blockages at the Israeli border meant civilians were facing spending the summer with its soaring temperatures sheltering under rotting plastic and tents with little or no sanitation, increasing the threat of disease and risk of infection.

Ms Reddick, who visited Gaza last month, said: "We will be looking at a new humanitarian crisis. Right now we have assistance which we are trying to get in. The situation is that aid is not getting through. It is piling up on the other side of the border.

"As summer comes on, the risk to health increases. It is difficult enough in winter, but it will be impossible in the heat and the risk to health increases."

The 22 days of hostilities, which ended on 18 January, left at least 1,300 Palestinian civilians dead and 5,500 injured. Thirteen Israelis were killed, three of them civilians.

Ms Reddick, originally from Ayr, said there were also major problems with lack of reconstruction work, because building materials such as steel, as well as fuel, were being prevented from entering the territory.

Israel has said Hamas could use materials like concrete for military purposes.

Ms Reddick, who deals with an annual budget of tens of millions of pounds, added: "The situation in Gaza has a political cause and therefore needs a political solution. This needs to happen to make it easier to move goods across the border."

Last month, the UK government pledged 30 million for reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. About 4 billion has been promised by foreign donors.

Sir Nick Young, chief executive of the British Red Cross, said: "This is not a job for aid agencies alone. Humanitarian action is vital, but insufficient to resolve the crisis.

"Ordinary Gazans have struggled under 18 months of restrictions, making daily life almost impossible access to healthcare, petrol, electricity, secure food supplies things we take for granted.

"The task of reconstruction is daunting. However, the truth is that efforts to rebuild Gaza can only succeed if accompanied by credible political steps to resolve the crisis."

Last week, a spokesman for the White House in the United States announced that the leaders of Israel, Egypt and the Palestinians have been invited for talks in Washington in a new push for peace. The talks are likely to take place by early June.

Ahmed Youssef, a senior adviser to Ismail Haniye, the Hamas prime minister, described as "accurate" Ms Reddick's assessment that Gaza is on the verge of humanitarian disaster because of Israeli strictures.

"Sometimes the Israelis try to deceive the world community by letting some lorries cross, but their policy is to keep us on the brink of collapse all of the time," said Mr Youssef.

However, Yariv Ovadia, a spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry, denied this, saying: "We closely monitor the humanitarian situation in Gaza and we don't see the situation getting close to a crisis."

About 120 lorry loads of humanitarian supplies cross into Gaza on a daily basis, according to the defence ministry.

Mr Ovadia said the restrictions "are mostly on equipment that is not used for humanitarian aid".





:: Article nr. 53767 sent on 28-apr-2009 04:30 ECT

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Link: news.scotsman.com/world/Gaza-again-on-brink-of.5210908.jp



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