UN mission to assess Gaza damage

Humanitarian coordinator tells 'Post' that teams are working closely with Israel to provide food to Gaza.

Gaza damage 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Gaza damage 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Monday in Kuwait that he planned to send a high-level mission to the Gaza Strip to assess the damage incurred in Israel's 22-day military operation. "Within ten days of this mission, I will launch a flash humanitarian appeal," Ban said at an Arab League economic summit in Kuwait City. Already, Palestinian surveyors have estimated that the IDF operation destroyed at least $1.4 billion worth of buildings, roads, power lines and pipes. Saudi Arabia has pledged $1 billion to reconstruction efforts in Gaza. On the other hand, the European Union has said it would not help rebuild Gaza until there is an acceptable government in power. Maxwell Gaylard, the UN's humanitarian coordinator in the Palestinian territories, said that until a full damage assessment is done, his organization's immediate focus is to continue to provide humanitarian aid such as food and medicine. Eighty percent of the 1.4 million people in Gaza are dependent on handouts of basic food staples from the UN. "We are working closely with the Israeli authorities to get things in," Gaylard told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. The UN is looking to re-establish a regular supply of food and medicine, as well as to replenish the empty storage tanks for diesel fuel at Gaza's only power plant. He added that cash also remains in short supply. According to Maj. Peter Lerner, the spokesman for the IDF coordinator of government activities in the territories, 185 trucks of humanitarian supplies entered Gaza on Monday. Seventy trucks of grain, including wheat, corn and animal feed, went through the Karni crossing, and 115 vehicles with humanitarian supplies went through the Kerem Shalom crossing. Forty of the trucks carried supplies from the United Nation Relief and Works Agency, which services Palestinian refuges. Other trucks carried supplies from Jordan and Egypt, as well as from the Israeli organization Latet. Ten ambulances from the West Bank also went through Kerem Shalom for use in Gaza. In addition, 10 truckloads of fruits and vegetables, including bananas and tomatoes, went into Gaza through Kerem Shalom as part of a business exchange between Gazan and Israeli merchants. A similar shipment went through on Sunday. This marked the renewal of Israeli-Gazan commerce, which had been severed at the start of Operation Cast Lead three weeks ago. At the Nahal Oz fuel depot, 537,000 liters of diesel fuel went into Gaza, as did 206 tons of cooking gas. The diesel fuel will be used to generate electricity. At the Erez crossing, 33 Palestinians were allowed to travel into Israel for medical treatment. About half were patients; the others were escorts. Monday was the first day since the war began that residents of Gaza City were out in full force, picking through the ruins. At one affluent home, a truck carted off Chinese vases, a refrigerator and a baby stroller. Electric cables dangled all over the city. Those who could afford expensive fuel used generators, while donkey-drawn carts piled high with tree branches and split logs plied the streets with cooking and heating fuel for those not as well off. During Israel's three-week onslaught, Israeli tanks had been stationed on the rim of Gaza City, and the destruction there was heavy. Tank shells had turned some buildings into heaps of concrete, while tanks themselves had damaged the walls of others. Orange and olive groves were flattened. Farther inside the city, the parliament building and other structures targeted by Israeli warplanes and helicopter gunships were reduced to piles of rubble. Some of the destruction resembled a moonscape. Elsewhere, damage appeared pinpointed, with isolated homes flattened or demolished. At least 1,259 Palestinians were killed in Israel's air and ground onslaught, more than half of them civilians, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health. Thirteen Israelis died, including four soldiers killed by friendly fire. AP and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.