Swiss Aid Official Warns of 'Shocking' Crisis in Gaza


10-26-07, 9:54 am

A senior Swiss aid official has warned that the situation in the increasingly isolated Palestinian territory is 'untenable' and 'shocking,' the Swissinfo website reported on Thursday.

Switzerland should step up pressure to ensure international humanitarian law is properly respected in the Gaza Strip, Walter Fust, head of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), told the website.

Fust, who had just concluded a visit to Gaza, criticized Israel 's 'siege policy' in Gaza, saying the policy 'has damaging consequences that require a substantially increased international humanitarian response.'

According to Swissinfo, aid agencies are increasingly concerned about the plight of Gaza's 1.4 million residents. Gaza has been all but cut off from the outside world since June, when Hamas seized control of the territory.

In September, Israel declared Gaza a 'hostile territory,' imposed additional restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from the area, and reduced the supply of fuel and electricity in response to continued rocket attacks from the Palestinian territory.

Fust said the food situation in Gaza had deteriorated ' considerably,' with 30 percent of children undernourished.

The situation in hospitals and health centers is also precarious, he noted, with shortages of medicines and medical resources.

'Ambulances have such a complicated time passing Israeli checkpoints that patients' lives are endangered,' he said.

The Swiss official stressed that a substantial increase in the humanitarian engagement by the international community in Gaza was indispensable.

'Everything must be done to mobilize more funds for Gaza. Aid organizations cannot even cover half of their budget for Palestinian refugees.'

From People's Daily Online