The Commissioner General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), Filippo Grandi, has warned that "the plight of Palestinians and Palestinian refugees under Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, continues to worsen."
UNRWA has been the UN branch concerned with the issue of Palestinian refugees since 1949. Grandi was speaking in Jordan at the opening session of UNRWA’s Advisory Commission.
He said: "The situation in Gaza has deteriorated substantially - and I repeat, substantially - in the last few months. I regret having to raise once again issues that we hoped were going to be eventually overcome by Israel’s partial and gradual relaxation of the blockade since 2010."
Grandi continued: "Instead, since March we have not had any construction projects cleared by the Israeli government, and for the past month, we have been unable to import building materials. Nineteen of our 20 construction projects have now ground to a halt and this is also likely to have financial consequences."
Speaking more broadly, Grandi said: "Following the closure of most of the smuggling tunnels and given that Israel does not allow exports or a resumption of normal economic activities; prices have been rising because commodities are becoming scarce."
"Lack of fuel has provoked the closure of the power plant, the few jobs available in the construction industry are disappearing… and the list continues."
Based on his own experiences, Grandi describes how: "I have personally observed this situation deteriorate steadily in the past few years, with conflict erupting intermittently - twice with the gravest consequences."
He said that while the world is giving attention to the broader issues in Syria, the people who pay the price of this distraction are those in Gaza.
"UNRWA has a major responsibility for the welfare of two thirds of the population [in Gaza], and from that perspective I must remind you, once more, that Gaza is quickly becoming uninhabitable," Grandi warned.
He called for giving attention to human security in the Strip in order to guarantee the stability of the region, suggesting that: "Perhaps strengthening the human security of the people of Gaza is a better avenue to ensuring regional stability than physical closures, political isolation and military action."
To achieve this goal, he called for ending the "illegal" Israeli siege of Gaza. "Meanwhile, the UN must be allowed to at least continue its construction projects and provide a few extra jobs to the beleaguered population," he noted. "This is urgent," he stressed.
Grandi also noted the importance of a united Palestinian leadership in lessening the plight of the Palestinians. He then called for donors not to forget Gaza, especially regarding food aid.
Middle East Monitor , 21 November, 2013.