26 March 2004
NEW YORK — Calling on the Israeli Government today to restore full access to Gaza for humanitarian aid, the UN Special Coordinator’s Office (UNSCO) said new Israeli-imposed restrictions on staff movements may force humanitarian agencies to cut back on assisting Gaza’s civilian population.
“The UN recognizes Israel’s legitimate security concerns and senior officials have repeatedly sought to engage the government of Israel to resolve these concerns, but without success,” UNSCO said.
“Because the restrictions persist, the UN is compelled to call publicly on the Government of Israel to restore full access to Gaza for UN and humanitarian workers and goods.”
Nearly all humanitarian aid vehicles from the UN and other agencies have been banned from crossing at the Erez checkpoint in the last three weeks, while transporting food containers through the commercial Karni crossing point is now obstructed, UNSCO said.
These humanitarian operations had provided food for several hundred thousand people and more than half of Gaza’s essential social services, it said.
The restrictions were put in place because of Palestinian attacks on 6 March, in a vehicle disguised as an Israeli military vehicle, and on 14 March by two suicide bombers on Ashdod port, it said, but the incidents did not involve UN vehicles or goods.
Anyone not on official Israeli lists has to apply for special clearance to enter Gaza and approval can take from five days to two months, UNSCO said.