Gaza 'on point of explosion' warns UN

Gaza is about to reach a "point of explosion" that could lead to another breakout by the desperate Palestinian population, trapped by an Israeli economic blockade, the most senior UN official in the territory has warned.

Thousands of Palestinians surged across the border with Egypt last January after breaching the border fence in order to buy basic supplies which were no long obtainable in the Gaza Strip. John Ging, Gaza head of the UN Relief and Works Agency which supports Palestinian refugees, said yesterday that the breakout last January "was predicted, but the causes were not addressed". Now, he said, "pressure is building again and coming to a point of explosion".

In testimony via videolink to the Commons International Development Committee, Mr Ging said the main problem was access in and out of Gaza.

Describing humanitarian conditions in Gaza as "shocking" and "shameful" because of the lack of basic supplies, he said the closures imposed since last June, when Hamas seized control of the territory, were having a "devastating effect" on the civilian population. Israel only allows minimal amounts of food, medicine and fuel to pass unimpeded through the crossing points, while petrol and diesel deliveries were halted completely last month following an attack by Palestinian militants on a fuel terminal in which two Israeli workers were killed.

The UN was forced to temporarily halt food distribution to up to 800,000 Palestinians in Gaza for the first time at the end of last week as a result of the fuel shortages which have had a knock-on effect on electricity and water supplies and sewage treatment.

Mr Ging said the "number one issue" was access for non-food and non-medical items. Supplies of cement and steel, and even items for printing schoolbooks, are subject to a lengthy process by Israel which cites security reasons. Mr Ging, who met the Middle East envoy Tony Blair on Tuesday, noted that the former prime minister's "pet project" of a water treatment plant in Gaza was at a standstill because construction materials had not been allowed through.

Addressing the same committee session, Adam Leach, regional director of Oxfam, said that the international community's response had been "wholly inadequate" as it had failed to take "robust" decisions needed to remove the movement restrictions and secure the opening of the crossings.

Israel is expected to come under international pressure on the issue of Palestinian access to and from Gaza and within the West Bank at a series of meetings on the Palestinian economy involving the donor community in London tonight and tomorrow. The Israeli government says the restrictions are needed because of the risk of militant attacks against Israel proper. However, Mr Ging said that in Gaza, "this approach has not worked. It has not inhibited those who are firing the rockets but has crushed the population".

Twelve small Palestinian factions, including Islamic Jihad, were reported yesterday to have agreed to a ceasefire with Israel starting in the Gaza Strip after Egyptian-brokered talks. However, Israel has been sceptical about a ceasefire and last week rejected an offer from Hamas for a six-month Gaza truce, out of fears that the Islamic militants would use the period to rearm.

An Israeli warplane yesterday attacked a metal foundry in Rafah, on the border between Gaza and Egypt border, killing a local commander of Islamic Jihad and wounding three people.

LibDem MP Sarah Teather, who was in Gaza last week, yesterday described how a delegation of four MPs had to seek refuge in the lavatories at the Erez crossing after a Palestinian rocket landed close to the building. She said she was "really appalled" by conditions in Gaza.

*Israeli troops were unable to identify Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana as a journalist before they fired at him, the Israeli army said yesterday, citing preliminary results of an investigation.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London