UNSG BAN Ki-Moon entered the Gaza strip this morning (Sunday) — despite firing of at least four rockets from Gaza on Saturday to Israeli perimeter communities.
Such firing usually brings Israeli reprisals — but that will have to wait until BAN leaves the Gaza Strip. [UPDATE: SMS Israel is reporting that Palestinian sources say the IDF fired “tank shells” at southern Gaza — while BAN is in northern Gaza…]
BAN made a stop in the northern Gaza neighborhood of Ezbat Abed Rabbo (Abed Rabbo farms) in Jabaliya, which was one of the worst-hit areas during the IDF Operation Cast Lead (27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009). Almost every house was destroyed, and a whole area of small businesses as well — one by one by one.
With the Israeli ban on construction materials still in place — ostensibly because Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is still being held somewhere in Gaza since being seized in a cross-border raid in late June 2006 — there has been virtually no reconstruction. Families are still living in tents beside the rubble of their former homes.
Supplies of electricity and cooking gas are still unreliable and intermittant. Millions of liter of raw or partially-treated sewage from the densely-populated Gaza Strip, where 1.5 million people are trapped, has been pouring directly into the Mediterranean Sea. The current travels north — but this has apparently not bothered Israeli beach-goers so much that they have pressed for an end to the sanctions that the Israeli government ordered tightened after the mid-June 2007 Hamas rout of Palestinian/Fatah Preventive Security forces in Gaza.
Since September 2007, the Israeli Ministry of Defense has been in charge of these sanctions — which are directly administered by the Coordinator of [Israeli] Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). The Israeli Supreme Court was asked by a coalition of Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups to prohibit the military from carrying out what they say is “collective punishment” of the entire population of Gaza. But the High Court of Justice instead allowed the Israeli Military to proceed, on the sole condition that it would not allow a “humanitarian crisis” to develop.
BAN has reportedly just said in Gaza that this continued blockade or seige is “unacceptable”.
BAN, and the Quartet of Middle East negotiators of which he is part, have repeated their calls this week for an end to rocket and missile and mortar firing from Gaza, and for Gilad Shalit’s safe return home.
Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar is reported to have said this morning that Fatah and “factions” are responsible for the continued projectile firing from Gaza — which he said Hamas wanted to stop. Zahar apparently told al-A3alam TV that the shelling “diverts the focus from the occupation crimes”.