JERUSALEM, 13 Muharram1434/27 November  2012 (MINA) – UNRWA’s Commissioner General Filippo Grandi Monday called on the international community and the parties to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to “seize the opportunity” provided by the Gaza ceasefire.

    He described last week’s Israeli war on Gaza as “tragic escalation” and urged all to “address the real problems underlying the crisis,” according to the Palestinian news agency, WAFA.

    Speaking to UNRWA’s Advisory Commission, Grandi called for “the illegal Israeli blockade (on Gaza) to be lifted in all its aspects– crossings, fishing zones, imports, exports – with proper guarantees given to and by all parties in respect of the security of all civilians.”

    Grandi recognized that to address root causes “difficult political work would have to be carried out, including promoting and supporting lasting Palestinian unity. But failing to act now will have dire consequences. The greatest danger is to return to the status quo ante, and restore the prison-like conditions of Gaza. If this happened, it would be only a matter of time till violence resumed.”

    He added that the crisis in Gaza was ‘about the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a broader sense, with all its elements, including the situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.”

    Grandi also briefed Advisory Committee members on the crisis in Syria, where he said “concerns about the welfare of the half million Palestine refugees there have grown as they are increasingly affected by the conflict.”

    He said that the vast majority of Palestinians in Syria “maintain the shield of neutrality aware that their protection depends on it.”

    However, Grandi warned that “we do observe explicit efforts to draw them into the conflict. It is therefore not difficult to imagine that they become, increasingly, targets of attacks – in the midst of a situation in which the killing and kidnapping of civilians, the destruction of their homes, and widespread fear have become so common that they don’t make the headlines any longer.”

   “UNRWA’s strategy in Syria, as in Gaza”, he said, “is to be there, maintain services and address the growing emergency needs as much as possible.”

    UNRWA, he said, “possesses proven operational abilities, through its existing staff capacity and infrastructure and will continue to build Palestinian resilience by continuing education, health and relief services, meeting emergency needs for food and supplies, particularly during winter, and assisting with shelter repair.” (T.R./M.S./R-010/R-006)

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