UN, aid groups: Let building supplies into Gaza

Aid groups can't guarantee iron, cement for schools won't be used for terror, Israeli spokesman says.

July 29, 2009 11:28
3 minute read.
Palestinian youths walk next to a wall of a school

Palestinian youths walk next to a wall of a school. (photo credit: AP)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief


UN agencies and two dozen international aid groups urged Israel on Tuesday to lift its blockade of Gaza or at least allow in construction materials to repair war-damaged schools.

Out of Gaza's 640 schools, 18 were flattened and 280 suffered some damage during Israel's three-week offensive against Hamas seven months ago, the groups said in a statement.

Since the operation, Israel has refused to allow construction materials into Gaza, arguing that Hamas could divert iron rods and concrete to build rockets and bunkers.

Both Israel and Egypt have kept Gaza's borders largely closed since Hamas seized control of the territory by force more than two years ago.

The border blockade and the operation have further burdened Gaza's education system, which even before the Hamas takeover suffered from serious overcrowding. Many schools have been running morning and afternoon shifts for lack of space.

About 500,000 of Gaza's 1.4 million residents are of school age. Of those, nearly half attend schools run by the UN Relief and Works Agency, which cares for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

About 6,000 students will have to be reassigned to different schools because their old ones were rendered unusable by the war, said Numan Sherif, an official in the Hamas Education Ministry.

"The problem is the blockade," Sherif said. "There's money to rebuild, but we don't have access to basic materials, or even furniture. We can't fix toilets or the wiring in schools."

He said Gaza would also need 100 new schools just to keep pace with population growth.

A UN official, Marixie Mercado, said aid groups meet regularly with Israeli defense officials on the issue. Mercado said defense officials allowed in text books, paper and some teaching kits.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the aid groups could not guarantee that construction materials intended for schools would not be diverted by Hamas operatives.

"The point is, what will they do with iron, what will they do with cement?" asked Palmor. "Will it go to the schools? We have a good reason to believe it won't. This is not an abstract fear," he said.

John Ging, the top UN aid official in Gaza, challenged that argument, noting that UNRWA keeps track of the supplies allowed into Gaza by Israel.

"We account for every sack of flour and we can equally account for every bag of cement," he said. "It's just a matter of political will to move forward on this issue. We'd like to get on with the job, and then be held accountable on whether we are achieving it or not".

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

March 21, 2019
Israel Advocacy: Fighting for the truth