Thursday February 05, 2009

by Dominic Waghorn, Middle East Correspondent

On SKY NEWS (U.K.), at:

"Israel is being urged to explain why it will not allow basic educational materials into Gaza."

Destroyed house in Rafah after Israeli air strike

Photo: Some of the 20,000 homes destroyed in the recent Israeli offensive.

The UN's most senior official in Gaza, John Ging, told Sky News it is vital children are given help and support back in school:

"We need to deal with their mindsets coming out of this conflict and we can only do that by having them in school," he said.

"But what's the situation we're having today? The situation is I can't get the paper in to actually print their books."

The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) says Israel has refused to allow it to bring paper, ink and glue into Gaza since September.

"Israeli authorities have not allowed any cement into the Strip for a year and a half now."

--Senior UN official in Gaza

The Israeli government has told UNRWA such materials are not a priority.

But Israeli cabinet minister Isaac Herzog has told Sky News: "There is no problem, no backlog, no problem of inflow of products and services for humanitarian nature into Gaza."

Mr Herzog is the minister responsible for resupplying Gaza. His office says humanitarian aid is entering Gaza at a rate of 150 trucks a day - "the maximum amount of aid that the Palestinians can absorb at this time."

Aid supplies to be delivered to Gaza

Supplies destined for Gaza

But that is not how the UN sees it. Mr Ging insists they need many more trucks a day.

"Today we're getting in an average of a hundred trucks a day. A year and a half ago we were getting in five hundred.

"Israel's offensive in Gaza has left an estimated 20,000 homes uninhabitable but Israeli authorities have not allowed any cement into the strip for a year and a half now."

The offensive has also done enormous damage to factories in Gaza. The UN's humanitarian chief John Holmes says he believes they have been targeted deliberately.