Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gaza invasion could displace thousands, warns UNRWA

ArabNews
AMY TEIBEL | Associated Press
Wednesday 21 November 2012
Last Update 21 November 2012 12:11 am
GAZA: At least 50 Gaza families living next to the front line with Israel had fled their homes by the seventh day of Israel’s air war but far more people will be uprooted if there is any ground invasion, the UN relief agency in the enclave said yesterday.
The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which serves over one million Palestinians in Gaza, has directed the displaced to one of its schools for “protected shelter,” offering them mattresses, blankets and some kitchen tools.
There has been no massive displacement so far, Filippo Grandi, UNRWA’s Commissioner General, told Reuters during a visit to a distribution center in the Gaza Strip.
“What usually triggers displacement is a ground operation, a ground offensive. That’s why we really hope that a ground offensive will not happen because among many other things it will also cause a lot of humanitarian problems,” Grandi said. More than a half of the 115 Palestinians killed so far were civilians, including 27 children. Street-to-street urban fighting could raise the toll significantly.
Many Gazans believe Israel is deliberately targeting houses to mount pressure on Hamas to cease fire. Nael Al-Attar, 28, said he had fled his house with his wife and two children “under fire from the Israeli Army.” “The Jews killed children, the elderly and women. We hope this does not last long and we urge all countries to intervene and resolve the conflict,” Attar said. He added: “We thank Hamas and all other organizations for their resistance. Do all you can to terrorize the occupier.”
Meanwhile, efforts to end a week-old convulsion of Israeli-Palestinian violence drew in the world’s top diplomats yesterday, with President Barack Obama dispatching his secretary of state to the region on an emergency mission and the UN chief appealing from Cairo for an immediate cease-fire.
Hillary Rodham Clinton departed for the Mideast yesterday from Cambodia, where she had accompanied Obama on a visit. Clinton is to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank and Egyptian leaders in Cairo, according to US and Palestinian officials.
Netanyahu said yesterday that Israel wouldn’t balk at a broader military operation.
“I prefer a diplomatic solution,” Netanyahu said in a statement after meeting with Germany’s foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle. “But if the fire continues, we will be forced to take broader measures and will not hesitate to do so.”
Early yesterday, Israeli aircraft targeted another Hamas symbol of power, the headquarters of a bank senior Hamas officials set up to sidestep international sanctions on the militant group’s rule. After Hamas overran Gaza, foreign lenders stopped doing business with its militant-led government, afraid of running afoul of international terror financing laws.
The inside of the bank was destroyed and a building supply business in the basement was damaged. “I’m not involved in politics,” said the business owner, Suleiman Tawil. “I’m a businessman. But the more the Israelis pressure us, the more we will support Hamas.”
A man identified as the most elusive top military commander of Hamas is urging the group’s fighters to keep up attacks on Israel.
Mohammed Deif, seriously wounded in an Israeli airstrike in 2003, says Hamas “must invest all resources to uproot this aggressor from our land,” a reference to Israel.
Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby, accompanied by 10 Arab ministers, crossed into Gaza yesterday on a solidarity visit, the Hamas government announced.
“The Arab foreign ministers delegation has arrived through the Rafah border crossing,” Hamas information office said in a statement, adding Turkey’s foreign minister was with the delegation.
Meanwhile, A Bahrain lawmaker says he set fire to an Israeli flag during a Parliament session in a show of support for the Palestinians in Gaza.
Osama Al-Tamimi says he smuggled a canister of gasoline into the chamber and set the flag ablaze yesterday. The incident prompted a five-minute suspension of the session. Al-Tamimi says he sought to “send a clear message to the international community” about Bahrain’s support for the people of Gaza.