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UNRWA Chief Appeals for Cease-Fire in Gaza

The Head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza is appealing for a stop to the fighting in the Palestinian territory. He said the guns have to stop firing and the killings, the injuries and the destruction has to stop. He said the international community cannot simply stand by and watch what is going on.

The Head of UNRWA, John Ging, said the people of Gaza are increasingly desperate. He said they have no protection. There is nowhere they can flee. They are trapped.

In a briefing from Gaza, Ging told journalists in Geneva humanitarian agencies are limited in what they can do. He said his staff risks its lives to get supplies of food, medicine and emergency non-food items to hundreds of thousands of people. He said the staff works throughout the day to keep the operation going.

"We do not have the luxury of just operating during the so-called window of the lull in the fighting, which is three hours every day. The three hours every day gives the people a chance to more safely come out of their homes to our distribution points, to our clinics, to seek our assistance. But, as I say, to make that happen, to have the food and other items in place we have to work throughout the day and into the night bringing the convoys up from the crossing points," he said.

Ging called this a huge logistical operation and a very tedious one. He said it takes a long time to negotiate passage through the Israeli-manned checkpoints.

He blamed the death of several aid workers last week on a breakdown in the coordination of the UN's humanitarian effort with Israel. He said this problem now has been fixed.

"They have established effective mechanisms that are now working…It is a matter of fact that the mechanisms of coordinating with the Israeli military-the movements, the convoys, the work of our staff on the ground are actually effective and we have not had any other incidents since we got this new system put in place," he said.

Ging said Israel acknowledges that its system of clearing trucks through the checkpoints was faulty. He said solutions have been found and drivers are not being shot at after they are cleared to move through the line.

The UNRWA chief said latest estimates put the number of people killed in the Gaza conflict at over 900. Thousands are reported wounded.