Gaza blockade causing suffering, says Ki-moon

KHAN YUNUS: UN chief Ban Ki-moon slammed Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip saying it caused “unacceptable sufferings,” during a visit today to the Hamas-run coastal enclave.

“I have repeatedly made it quite clear to Israel’s leaders that the Israeli policy of closure is not sustainable and that it’s wrong,” Ban told reporters in the southern Gaza Strip town Khan Yunis.

“It causes unacceptable sufferings to ... the people and population” of Gaza,

he said.

“This policy is also counterproductive. It prevents legitimate commerce and encourages smuggling. It undercuts moderates and empowers extremists.”

The UN chief crossed into the impoverished territory earlier today, expressing solidarity with the plight of the Palestinians and urging Israel to end its tight blockade.

This was his second visit to the Gaza Strip since Israel’s 22-day offensive on Gaza aimed at halting rocket fire ended in January 2009.

Ban also toured some of the hardest-hit areas of Gaza before inaugurating projects to build 150 homes, a flour mill and a sewage treatment plant, all of which he said were approved by Israel in recent days.

However, Ban said more reconstruction was needed, calling the projects a “drop in the bucket.”

“I have seen much damage (to many) houses, it is quite distressing,” he said.

In the occupied West Bank on Saturday, the UN Secretary General had said his visit to Gaza was to show his support for Palestinians.

“I’ll go to Gaza... to express my solidarity with the plight of the Palestinian people there and to underscore the need to end the blockade,” Ban told reporters. Ban had insisted ahead of a meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres on Saturday that the closures imposed “unacceptable hardships” on civilians.