UN official says situation in Gaza Strip 'grim and miserable'
UN humanitarian affairs head vows to examine effect of sanctions on Gazans, Qassam rocket fire on Israel.
The UN's top official for welfare and humanitarian affairs said Friday that life in Gaza was 'grim and miserable' as a result of prolonged closure of the strip's borders and called for the lifting of blockades imposed after the militant Hamas movement seized control of the territory last summer.
"These grim and miserable things are results of the restrictions placed on the Gaza crossings," John Holmes, the UN's undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, told journalists during a visit to the strip.
On Thursday, Holmes said he would examine the consequences of Palestinian Qassam rocket fire on Israeli communities, as well as the damage caused to residents of the Gaza Strip by Israeli sanctions, during a four-day tour.
Holmes, said he would try and find ways to get more humanitarian aid in.
The impoverished Gaza Strip has been under blockade since the Islamic Hamas party wrested control over the coastal territory last year. Israel allows only emergency humanitarian aid and fuel into Gaza through the border crossings it controls, tightening its restrictions as Palestinian rocket fire from the Strip persists.
"I come to the region to look at it from a humanitarian viewpoint," Holmes told reporters in Jerusalem as he embarked upon his mission.
Holmes was planning to meet with residents of Sderot, an Israeli town just outside Gaza that is a target of near daily rocket attacks by Palestinian militants.
"You can't justify the firing of these rockets and mortars from Gaza into Israel," Holmes said. "I want to see the effects they are having on people at the receiving end of the rockets."
Holmes said he wanted to see if he could find new ways to ease the lives of civilians on both sides, but noted he does not have the authority to make changes.
"Obviously we don't have the power to enforce solutions, but we can make suggestions," he said.
Holmes was scheduled to visit Gaza on Saturday, Sderot on Sunday and Jerusalem on Monday. He said he will meet Israeli officials and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, but he will not see Hamas leaders in Gaza.