After the cataclysm

January 28, 2009

In News

‘Israel targeted UN Staff during Gaza standoff’

01.26.2009 | Xpress (UAE)
By Awad Mustafa, Staff Reporter

In a seminar Tuesday morning, United Nations staff claimed that they were directly targeted by the Israeli army during the 23-day standoff at Gaza.

“I mean what I am saying,” said Dr. Sami Mushasa media director for United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA.)

His agency, he said, “was targeted and a scores settlement was made by Israel to disrupt our work in Gaza and Palestine”.

According to Mushasa, ten UN buildings and numerous UN schools and aid centres were targeted during the Israeli offensive on Gaza.

“Currently the UN is conducting an investigation and compensation and an official apology is demanded for this uncalled for attack,” he said.

UNRWA is the United Nations agency that provides relief and infrastructure and economic aid to the Gaza strip.

The “UNRWA employs mostly Palestinians, we have 30,000 employees who work in road works, schools, medical centres, and general relief,” he said.

Mushasha said that since January 21, Israelis have blocked a building materials shipment worth $110 million as well as 250,000 school books and medical supplies.

He visited Dubai as part of a panel discussing the Gaza rebuilding effort.

The panel, mediated by Arabia news television anchor Mohammed Abu Obied, was attended by Sabry Saydem from the Crisis Cell for Gaza at the Palestinian Presidency, Dr Ayman Abu Laban, UNICEF representative to the Gulf region, Dr. Sami Mushasa, Media and Communications Director of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) and Dr Mujahid Al Khayat, CEO of US based Al Hayat relief agency.

Saydem said that losses in Gaza have reached $1.9 billion.

The death toll is reported at 1,342 and 5,500 were injured.
Other numbers are coming in.

As many as 58 mosques and churches were destroyed, 83 hospitals and were razed, 25 schools were levelled and all of Gaza is now communicating through one fibre optic cable with the world.

An estimated 80 percent of its communications infrastructure has been wiped out.

“Currently we have to re-establish the medical, educational, government and banking institutions in Gaza as life has been completely stopped,” he said. “The children are suffering from psychological trauma from the conflict and need serious psychological rehabilitation now.”

There are 450,000 children who are returning to school in Gaza and all of them suffer from psychological trauma, according Ayman Abu Laban, UNICEF representative to the Gulf.

“We need to rehabilitate the children and introduce stability and security to them now as they are suffering from different psychological disturbances such as bed wetting, animosity, aggressiveness and detachment,” he said.

Relief agencies and authorities are also facing the challenge of repatriating the refugees. “Currently, Gaza has 150,000 refugees whose homes have been destroyed,” said Mushasha. “The majority of them are living in the schools, we need 450 million dollars to provide relief and aid to them in the next nine months.”

Arab Media ‘consistent and focused’

The speakers at the seminar lauded the role of the Arab media in highlighting the plight of Palestinians under attack, particularly during the recent war on Gaza.

Though some media organizations have been rather explicit in their positions on the internal disputes among Palestinians, they all did a good job at bringing attention to the savage attack that the civilian population in Gaza Strip were being subjected to, the speakers noted.

Answering questions on the neutrality of his organization in covering the war, Qasim Kafarne, chairman, Ramattan News Agency, Palestine, said that while his news agency remained neutral toward the internal disputes between Hamas and Fatah, they could not afford to be neutral on Israeli attacks on their land and people.

“However, we have tried our best to comply with the norms and ethics of the profession of journalism. For instance, we desisted from using 80 per cent of the pictures that we gathered, which are much more shocking than what has already been aired on television channels,” he explained.

Questioning the neutrality of most of the Western media on the war on Gaza, Mohammed Yousuf, President, UAE Journalists Association, said that several of them were openly supportive of Israel.

“The Arab voice remains disunited and that is painful. This disunity is evident even in the coverage of the Arab media during the war on Gaza. While the voice of Israel is united and one, the Arabs present a totally different picture. I am happy to note that UAE media has been consistently supportive of the Palestinian cause, while refraining from interfering with the internal issues within the Palestininan leadership,” he added during the vibrant debate, which was moderated by Fadhila Al Suwaisi, a presenter from Abu Dhabi TV.

The second session, moderated by Muhammed Abu Eid of Al Arabiya TV, saw a well-focused discussion on all aspects of the humanitarian crisis in the wake of the war and the efforts being made for the reconstruction of the devastated Gaza Strip.

In addition to Mushashi, the session on reconstruction was addressed by Sabri Saidam from the Gaza Cell in the office of the Palestinian President, Dr. Ayman Abu Leban, Representative of UNICEF in the Gulf, Mujahid Al Fayyadh, CEO, Life for Relief and Development.

The speakers at the session stressed the need for bringing about unity among the different factions within the Palestinian leadership, particularly Hamas and Fatah for any meaningful reconstruction effort to be viable and effective. The speakers pointed out that the enormity of the destruction and the savagery of the attacks demanded action on all possible levels, including legal and international pressure on Israel and her supporters.