STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) – A senior Palestinian official on Friday urged world donors to help ease a “never-ending” humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip and called on Israel to allow easier access for aid shipments to reach the West Bank.
“Given the constraints imposed on us, the situation continues to deteriorate,” said Mohammad Mustafa, a top adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Mustafa headed a Palestinian delegation attending a donors’ conference for Gaza in the Swedish capital Friday, which organizers hope will raise substantial pledges for a United Nations flash appeal that went out earlier this year for humanitarian aid. So far, about 39 percent of the requested US$330 million (¤257 million) has been raised, organizers said.
Sweden’s foreign minister, Jan Eliasson, opened the conference with a Swedish pledge of US$5 million (¤3.9 million) for humanitarian aid, along with a US$3 million (¤2.3 million) to rebuild a power plant that was destroyed earlier this year in an Israeli attack. Sweden will also give another US$6 million (¤4.7 million) to a World Bank fund for Gaza, Eliasson said.
“We have to break the vicious circle of violence,” Eliasson said. “The feeling of despair must be replaced by hope.” Mustafa thanked the more than 50 countries and organizations attending the conference, but said money alone will not solve the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
“We strongly believe that this man-made humanitarian crisis is political in nature, and thus calls for a political solution,” Mustafa said. He called on Israel to open up the border to the Gaza Strip and said the most important goal for the conference must be to “end the devastating closure of Gaza and allow the free flow of people, goods and services to and from Gaza.”
He did not mention Hamas, whose stunning election victory spurred the international community to halt financial support to Palestinian authorities.
The meeting on Gaza follows a donors’ conference for Lebanon that raised nearly US$1 billion (¤800 million) for early recovery efforts on Thursday.
Jan Egeland, the humanitarian chief for the United Nations, said the situation in the West Bank deteriorated while the world shifted its focus to the 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah, calling Gaza a “a ticking time bomb.”
“I have traveled to the West Bank for 22 years,” Egeland told the conference. “But I never experienced so much disillusionment, frustration, hatred and lack of hope as during my last visit” in July.
Conditions in Gaza worsened after Israel launched a large-scale military offensive in the tiny coastal strip at the end of June. The operation was in response to a raid in which Hamas-allied militants who tunneled under the Gaza-Israel border attacked an army post and captured an Israeli soldier. The Israeli offensive also was intended to stop militant rocket attacks.
The military operation destroyed farmland, houses, government buildings, water pipes and electric lines in the territory.