Tutu: Situation in Gaza Strip has become 'scary'

Archbishop visits region on UN fact-finding mission; appeals to Hamas leaders to end attacks on Israel.

tutu gaza 224 88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
tutu gaza 224 88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Thursday said he was shocked by conditions in the Gaza Strip after months of Israeli sanctions. The Nobel peace laureate said the coastal strip has become "desolate and scary" as a result of shortages of fuel and other basic goods. "No people were in the streets. We were struck particularly by the absence of the sound of children playing or waving to (my) motorcade, like other countries," he said at a news conference, urging Israel to lift the blockade. Israel imposed the sanctions last year after Hamas seized control of Gaza. It has tightened the blockade in recent months in response to repeated rocket attacks by Palestinian terrorists. Tutu said he had appealed to Hamas leaders to bring an end to the rocket fire and other attacks. Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel said Hamas is responsible for the Israeli sanctions. He said Hamas has allowed militants to carry out numerous attacks, including a string of bombings targeting the border crossings used to deliver goods into Gaza. "If there was no terror from Gaza, the borders would be open and there would be no problems," Mekel said. Tutu was in Gaza this week as part of a UN fact-finding mission investigating an IDF strike that accidentally killed 19 civilians, all members of an extended family, in November 2006. Tutu said Israel did not allow him to enter the country during his trip. Mekel said Tutu is welcome in the country, but that Israel will not cooperate with the UN investigation, claiming the body overseeing the probe, UN Human Rights Council, is biased against Israel. The council has been widely criticized for its heavy emphasis on criticizing Israel and the presence of human-rights violators, including Pakistan and Gabon, among its members. Egypt, which has sealed its border with Gaza since the Hamas takeover, opened the crossing to allow Tutu to enter the Palestinian area.