Gaza faces ‘increasingly dire situation,’ UN rights commissioner says
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Gaza faces ‘increasingly dire situation,’ UN rights commissioner says

Office of Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein expresses 'deep concern' over deterioration of humanitarian conditions, blames both Israelis and Palestinians

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jordan's Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein, speaks to the media during a news conference at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, May 1, 2017. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/AP)
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jordan's Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein, speaks to the media during a news conference at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, May 1, 2017. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/AP)

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warned Friday that residents of the Gaza Strip were facing an “increasingly dire situation” due to lack of electricity, medical services and proper sanitation.

Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said in a statement that the office was “deeply concerned about the steady deterioration in the humanitarian conditions and the protection of human rights in Gaza.”

She lay blame for the coastal strip’s woes with Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

“At the height of summer, with soaring temperatures, electricity provision has not risen above six hours per day since the beginning of the current crisis in April, and has often been under four hours,” she noted.

“We have observed an increasingly dire situation for the men, women and children of Gaza amid a deepening economic crisis, coupled with continuing restrictions on movement and freedom of expression.”

She called on Israel to immediately lift the blockade on the territory, which the Jewish state insists is necessary to prevent the entry of weaponry and explosives into the Strip.

She also urged Palestinian leaders to reverse “the recent measures to decrease the provision of electricity, and to cut the salaries and order early retirement of civil servants in Gaza.

“The lack of transparency in the use of resources, and the continuing suppression of freedom of speech and assembly by the authorities raise further concerns for the protection of fundamental rights of the population in the Gaza Strip,” she said.

The PA, which runs the internationally recognized government in the West Bank, has recently begun a campaign to squeeze Hamas — including reducing energy funding and allegedly the number of permits given to sick Gazans seeking medical treatment outside.

Critics say this has led to yet more suffering in Gaza.

Palestinians ride a donkey-pulled-cart past residential units funded by Qatar in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, June 6, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)
Palestinians ride a donkey-pulled-cart past residential units funded by Qatar in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, June 6, 2017. (AFP/Said Khatib)

In July a UN official warned that Gaza may already be “unlivable.”

Robert Piper, the UN’s top humanitarian official in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, said that all the “indicators are going in the wrong direction.”

“We predicted some years ago that Gaza would fast become unlivable on a host of indicators and that deadline is actually approaching even faster than we predicted — from health access, to energy to water,” he said.

Hamas and the PA’s ruling Fatah party have been attempting to broker a reconciliation deal, with the support of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

The proposed deal includes Hamas dissolving a committee it formed to administer tasks historically carried out by the PA, as well as a commitment by PA President Abbas to end harsh measures he has leveled against Gaza since April, including reductions in support payments for electricity, medical aid, and governmental salaries for residents of the Strip.

Hamas, an Islamist terrorist group, wrestled control of Gaza from Abbas’s Palestinian Authority in a bloody coup in 2007. Years of reconciliation efforts have so far yielded nothing.

According to reports in Arab media, the PA is pursuing the reconciliation deal in order to cut off the quickly growing ties between Hamas and Abbas’s rival Mohammed Dahlan.

Dahlan, who now lives in exile in the United Arab Emirates, has been moving closer to Hamas in recent months, and the two sides have openly discussed a new power-sharing agreement in the Strip.

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