UN envoy says Gaza humanitarian situation ‘dangerous’

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (AFP) — The UN Middle East envoy warned Tuesday that the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip had become “dangerous” since Israel launched a massive operation to win the release of an abducted soldier.

“Until just before the capture of Corporal [Gilad] Shalit, it was a dangerous humanitarian situation and there was a significant deterioration across the board,” Alvaro de Soto said in an interview with AFP.

Israel sent ground forces into Gaza and knocked out a power station last Wednesday on the first of seven straight nights of air strikes over the impoverished territory in an assault designed to release the soldier.

Warning of the risk of waterborne diseases without proper water distribution, sanitation and sewage systems, the envoy urged Israel to restore fuel supplies and “cooperate energetically” to get the transformers replaced.

“We don’t want to suggest that this is like Darfur… It’s a dangerous situation, it’s a situation that could get very serious over time,” he said.

However, Israeli army colonel Nir Press, who oversees supply shipments into Gaza, told AFP that “the region is not currently suffering from a lack of food, medicine or petrol.”

He said 104 supply trucks had crossed into Gaza on Tuesday carrying “wheat, rice, oil, milk, corn, flour, sugar, salt, fruits, vegetables and medicine”, as well as “large quantities of fuel, including a half million litres of gas-oil and gas”.

The supplies were delivered in response to “lists of requests made by the Palestinians themselves,” he said, adding that 28 containers of UN supplies had also made their way into Gaza on Tuesday.

De Soto also said the United Nations “took exception” to Israel’s arrest of a third of the Hamas-led Palestinian government, lawmakers and the bombings of the Gaza offices of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and Siad Siam last week.

“Palestinian institutions which have functioned and we have relied on very heavily in order to provide for the basic needs of the Palestinian people need to be preserved if there is going to be a two-state solution,” he said.

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