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UN Urges No Political Interference in Gaza Aid Operation

The United Nations is appealing to both Israeli and Palestinian authorities to allow its multi-million dollar humanitarian operation in Gaza to proceed without political interference. The United Nations met with donor countries in Geneva to present details of its $613 million appeal to provide emergency assistance to Palestinian victims of the Israeli military operation.

U.N. Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes outlines three requirements for a successful relief operation. Topping the list is an appeal for the current unilateral fragile ceasefires to be turned into a long-term durable ceasefire.

He says a reasonably peaceful environment is needed in which to operate. He says another crucial requirement is for all the crossing points into Gaza to be opened so humanitarian and commercial goods can get through.

"And, the third requirement is to be able to conduct these relief operations free from any political interference. We want to work with the Israeli authorities, that is essential because they control the crossing points," said Holmes. "We want to work with the Palestinian National Authority. And, of course we need to work with those in control on the ground, whoever they may be, on the technical basis to make sure we can do what we need to do. It is important that we are able to do that, and that none of these parties attempt to control politically the immediate humanitarian assistance we are giving."

Holmes says there have been stories about the diversion of aid in Gaza by Hamas. But he adds he is not aware of any aid channeled U.N. agencies for its own operations being diverted.

Although he says there may have been one or two donations from outside, which may have been hijacked along the way.

"Of course, there are concerns by Israel in particular about things like construction materials, cement, pipes, other kinds of equipment, which they believe could be diverted to military uses - construction of bunkers or rocket launchers or I have no idea what," added Holmes. "So, as part of the process of freeing up the crossings, which we believe, in principle, should be fully open, we are going to try to look at how we can strengthen our ability to say whatever we have got in over those crossings has gone to what it was intended for and not for some other purpose."

Holmes says the destruction he saw in Gaza recently was devastating in human and material terms. He says the magnitude of loss of life and injury to the civilian population is bound to have a lasting impact on the mental and physical wellbeing of the Palestinians.

He says the humanitarian appeal will, among other things, provide aid for agriculture, cash for work and assistance programs, shelter, education, food security, water and sanitation and physical and mental-health care.