'Gaza siege must be lifted,' urges UN Secretary General

'Gaza siege must be lifted,' urges UN Secretary General
Antonio Guterres calls for the blockade of the Gaza Strip to be lifted as he makes his first visit to the Palestinian enclave.
2 min read
30 August, 2017
Frequent power cuts in Gaza have put severe pressure on regional hospitals [Getty]
UN chief Antonio Guterres called for the blockade of the Gaza Strip to be lifted Wednesday as he visited the Palestinian enclave enduring "one of the most dramatic humanitarian crises" he had seen.

"I am deeply moved to be in Gaza today, unfortunately to witness one of the most dramatic humanitarian crises that I've seen in many years working as a humanitarian in the United Nations," Guterres said.

He later said it was "important to open the closures," in a reference to Israel's decade-long blockade of Gaza and its border with Egypt that has remained largely closed in recent years.

Gaza has effectively been under siege by Israel since Hamas came to power in 2007, but has received most of its electricity and fuel from Israel ever since, subsidised by the PA.

A similar blockade from the Egyptian side of the border has exasperated the problems for Gazans, with energy, food, fuel, medical supplies and building materials in short supply.

In April, the PA began to end energy payments, causing frequent power cuts in Gaza and severe pressure on regional hospitals.

The World Health Organisation warned in June that the blackouts threatened Gaza's health service provision and placed people's lives at real risk.

In order to reverse this trend however, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he was ready to resume payments in exchange for a power-sharing deal from Hamas.

Hamas published a rewrite of its charter in May, with a reconciliatory nod towards the PA – the first step towards reconciliation.

"Hamas emphasises the need to build Palestinian institutions and national platform on solid and correct democratic bases," the new charter read.

Guterres's comments came as he wrapped up a three-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

He held talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Jerusalem and Ramallah on Monday and Tuesday and was due to give a speech in Tel Aviv later Wednesday before departing.