UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon Visits Gaza Strip

Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon arrived in Gaza City Tuesday morning, starting off his trip throughout the besieged coastal enclave with a speech to UN staff, according to the UN secretary-general’s spokesperson.

Ban’s visit aims to assess the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territory, which has been reeling under a crippling Israeli blockade since 2006.

Speaking at a press conference at an UNRWA-run school, Ban warned that the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip fuels hostilities between the Palestinians and Israel.

Ban stressed the importance of achieving a united Gaza and West Bank under a single, democratic, and legitimate government, adding that he stands with the people of Gaza, telling them that “the UN will always be with you.”

The Commissioner-General for UNRWA Pierre Krahenbuhl accompanied Ban on the trip, saying their visit “comes at a time of deep despair in Gaza” citing a bleak political horizon, no freedom of movement, and extreme joblessness. “The world needs to pay far more attention,” he said.

The pair is also set to visit a center for reconstruction works in the Gaza Strip run by the UN, where they will meet with more UN officials and employees before Ban speaks at a news conference in the Tal al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City before leaving the coastal area.

Secretary-General Ban made a speech at a press conference Monday, following a meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, where he called on Israelis and Palestinians to take “concrete steps” towards peace.

In addition to denouncing the deadly shooting attack in Tel Aviv earlier this month, Ban slammed the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem since 1967, adding that “nearly 50 years of occupation has had a devastating impact on Palestinian lives, undermining the belief in a peaceful resolution to this conflict.”

Ban mentioned an upcoming “balanced and fair report” by the Middle East Quartet, which is expected to form a basis for the ongoing French-led peace initiative to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

His visit came on the heels of an agreement reached between Israel and Turkey re-establishing diplomatic normalization between the two states, which notably included Turkey conceding on pressuring Israel to lift its near-decade long siege on the Gaza Strip in spite of years of warnings. However, Israel did agree to allow Turkey to begin delivering humanitarian aid and initiate infrastructural projects for the territory.
The deal was met with outrage by many who were disappointed that Turkey had given up on pushing for a complete end to the blockade on the Gaza Strip, however, Hamas, the de-facto leaders of the enclave welcomed the deal.

The UN chief is expected to visit a UN building, prosthetics hospital and a health project in Gaza. He is also scheduled to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

Ban’s visit to Gaza is his last before his term as UN Secretary-General will expire in December.

Ban had visited the Gaza Strip in late 2014 in the wake of a deadly Israeli offensive, which killed more than 2,320 Palestinians and injured thousands.