Ban to PM: Let UN aid workers into Gaza

Israeli envoy: Top UN human rights official has fallen victim to "Hamas' cynical manipulation of the media."

Gaza blockade protest 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Gaza blockade protest 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday night that he was deeply concerned over the humanitarian situation in Gaza and called on Israel to allow UN aid workers access to the territory. "The secretary-general today telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to express his deep concern over the consequences of the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza," read a UN press office statement. "He strongly urged the prime minister to facilitate the freer movement of urgently needed humanitarian supplies and of concerned United Nations personnel into Gaza," it added. Olmert condemned the ongoing rocket fire from Gaza, but "agreed to look seriously into the urgent matter," the statement continued. Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided to keep Gaza's crossing shut on Wednesday after terrorists fired three Kassam rockets and two mortar shells at southern Israel on Tuesday night. Earlier Tuesday, Israel harshly condemned a call by the UN's top human rights official to immediately end the Gaza blockade, which she said breached international and humanitarian law. "These statements she made were shocking, biased and misinformed," said Israel's Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Aharon Leshno-Yaar, in a press statement he released to respond to the one issued by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. In that statement, issued from her Geneva-based office, Pillay urged Israel to allow the flow of aid - including food, medicines and fuel - to resume, and to restore electricity and water service in the Hamas-controlled territory. "Some 1.5 million Palestinian men, women and children have been forcibly deprived of their most basic human rights for months," Pillay said. She also called for Israel to end air strikes and incursions into Gaza, and for Palestinians to stop firing rockets. She issued the statement close to two weeks after the breakdown of the cease-fire. Israel has closed the borders to Gaza for most of that time in response to the renewed rocket attacks against its civilians. Leshno-Yaar said that Pillay's should have begun her statement with a condemnation of Hamas' continued violence against Israel. "Overall responsibility for the situation in the Gaza Strip lies with Hamas, which invests all of its resources in arms and terrorism instead of providing for the civilians that it brutally controls," Leshno-Yaar said, adding that Palestinian groups had fired more 170 rockets and mortars at Israel during the past 10 days. Leshno-Yaar also rejected Pillay's claim that Israel has cut off essential supplies to Gaza. "Electricity and water continue to flow from Israel to Gaza, and 33 trucks laden with supplies arrived in Gaza yesterday, with more waiting to enter as soon as Hamas ends its violent attacks," he said. "It is disappointing to see the high commissioner fall victim to Hamas' cynical manipulation of the media," said Leshno-Yaar. "Most disturbing is the way she casually refers to Palestinian aggression in the last sentence of her statement, almost as an afterthought. Unfortunately, Israel does not have the option of being so casual in its response to rocket attacks on its civilians, attacks which violate the most fundamental right of all, the right to life," said Leshno-Yaar.