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UN calls aid for Gaza reconstruction
United Nations, JAN 29 (Agencies):
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Published on 30 Jan. 2009 12:42 AM IST
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Mr Ban said he had been deeply moved by seeing the destruction in Gaza. The UN has launched an appeal for $613m to help people affected by Israel's military offensive in Gaza. "These needs are massive and multi-faceted," the body's top official Ban Ki-Moon said at the World Economic Forum in Davos. He added that funds would be used to "help overcome at least some measures of this hardship". The announcement came amid fears of a collapse of unilateral ceasefires by Israel and the Hamas militant group. Two rockets have been fired at Israel, while Israeli air strikes hit southern Gaza. UN Secretary-General Mr Ban visited Gaza after the ceasefires; he said help was urgently needed and he had been deeply moved by what he saw. 'The appeal aims to cover the requirements of the UN and other aid organisations for the next six to nine months and will provide everything from medical care to clean water. He told reporters that an appeal for longer-term needs will be launched later. The Israeli offensive in Gaza killed about 1,300 Palestinians, of whom 412 were children; 21,000 homes were destroyed or badly damaged. Thirteen Israelis were killed during the three weeks of violence. Also at Davos, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs chief John Holms said Israel must lift its blockade of the Palestinian territory of 1.5 million people. "We're asking for the crossing points to be opened fully... Otherwise, we won't be able to achieve what we want to achieve," he said at a joint news conference with Mr Ban. Israel says restrictions on access to Gaza are necessary to prevent the flow of weapons to the Hamas movement. In the region itself, George Mitchell, envoy for the new Obama administration in the US, is due to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank. On Wednesday, he met senior Israeli officials, after beginning his first tour of the region as President Barack Obama's envoy in Egypt. Mr Mitchell has no plans to meet representatives of Hamas. Sporadic violence has erupted since both sides declared tentative ceasefires on 17 and 18 January, with an apparent surge in the last 36 hours. The first rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip late on Wednesday and Israel has been bombing the area around the border between Gaza and Egypt. Another rocket was fire on Thursday morning. Meanwhile, about 40 demonstrators protested outside the building housing the BBC offices in Gaza. Representatives from a dozen intellectual and cultural groups called for a boycott of the BBC, in protest at its refusal to screen on UK television a humanitarian aid appeal for Gaza and for what they describe as "unbalanced reporting".

 
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