Ceasefire Holds as Israel Withdraws from Gaza
NEW YORK – INTERNATIONAL – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the Tuesday announcement of an open-ended ceasefire for Gaza, brokered under Egyptian auspices, and said he hopes this will lead to a political process aimed at achieving a durable peace.
“A brighter future for Gaza and for Israel depends on a sustainable ceasefire. It is up to the parties to live up to this responsibility,” reported Mr. Ban’s spokesperson. “After 50 days of profound human suffering and devastating physical destruction, any violations of the ceasefire would be utterly irresponsible.”
Gaza Peace Hopeful with Israeli Withdrawl
The Israeli army started withdrawing armoured vehicles from positions near the Gaza border, as a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians continues to hold. The Egyptian-mediated truce took effect on Tuesday evening.
The agreement calls for an indefinite halt to hostilities, the immediate opening of Gaza’s blockaded crossings with Israel and Egypt, and a widening of the territory’s fishing zone in the Mediterranean.
A second stage of the truce scheduled to take effect next month calls for Israel and the Palestinians to discuss the construction of a Gaza sea port and Israel’s release of Hamas prisoners in the occupied West Bank
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced strong criticism in his country’s newspapers over a campaign in which no clear victor emerged. Israel said it dealt a strong blow to Hamas, killing several of its military leaders and destroying its cross-border infiltration tunnels.
UN – Gaza Peace Needs To Tackle Root Cause of Crisis
General Secretary Ban noted that any peace effort that does not tackle the root causes of the crisis will do little more than set the stage for the next cycle of violence, calling for, among others, an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza and addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns.
“The Secretary-General remains hopeful that the extended ceasefire will act as a prelude to a political process as the only way of achieving durable peace,” said the statement, which added that the two-State solution is the only viable option.
“The Secretary-General urgently calls on both parties to return to meaningful negotiations towards a final status agreement that addresses all core issues and ends the 47-year occupation.”
The UN estimates that the latest wave of violence, which began eight weeks ago, has killed 2,101 Palestinians and 67 Israelis, in addition to forcing 475,000 Palestinians to seek refuge at UN facilities inside Gaza.
With the new cease-fire in place, a humanitarian convoy of United Nations World Food Programme for the first time in seven years has successfully crossed from Egypt into the Gaza Strip today, carrying enough food to feed around 150,000 people for five days.
WFP’s trucks arrived at the Rafah crossing after a seven-hour drive from Alexandria, where the food was procured, across the Sinai Peninsula, the agency said in a news release. This is the first time that WFP has used the Rafah crossing point since the Israeli blockade was imposed in 2007.
The convoy of 18 trucks carried 15,600 food parcels – part of a total batch of 25,000 food parcels – that includes ready-to-eat food such as canned meat, canned beans, tea and dates. A second convoy with the remaining parcels is expected to cross into Gaza in the next few days.
“It is extremely important that we have access to the Gaza Strip from different routes, including the Rafah crossing, to ensure a constant flow of humanitarian supplies to meet the growing needs of the people affected by the recent violence,” said Mohamed Diab, WFP Regional Director for the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and East Europe.
“We are grateful to the Government of Egypt for opening the Rafah crossing and allowing WFP to procure food in Egypt,” he added.
To respond to the urgent need for humanitarian aid in Gaza, the UN in Palestine has activated the logistics cluster. Under the leadership of WFP, the cluster is in charge of coordinating the movement of humanitarian assistance into Gaza. The Egyptian Red Crescent is coordinating all the crossing of humanitarian goods through Rafah.
“The opening of the Rafah crossing for humanitarian aid provides a major opportunity to scale up aid delivery to Gaza and needs to be sustained,” says WFP Country Director Pablo Recalde. “WFP has provided emergency relief from the onset of the conflict and will continue its food deliveries to Gaza to reach people affected by the conflict.”
Since the start of the conflict at the beginning of July, WFP has provided daily emergency food rations to up to 350,000 displaced people in Gaza, while reaching more than 120,000 people with emergency vouchers.