UNRWA school in Gaza hides map of ‘historic Palestine’ as Ban visits
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UNRWA school in Gaza hides map of ‘historic Palestine’ as Ban visits

UN chief tours Strip, calls Israeli blockade on Hamas-run enclave ‘collective punishment’ that ‘suffocates its people’

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks during a press conference at a United Nations school in Gaza City on June 28, 2016. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks during a press conference at a United Nations school in Gaza City on June 28, 2016. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

A school in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday covered up a map of “historic Palestine” — which is today the modern State of Israel — ahead of a visit by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

The map at an UNRWA institution in the Hamas-run enclave where Ban gave a press conference was seen in photos concealed by a white sheet.

Pierre Krähenbühl, the UN agency chief who was accompanying Ban on Tuesday, did not immediately comment.

In his visit to the region, which included a stop at the Gaza school, Ban lamented the plight of Gazans, saying that “the closure of Gaza suffocates its people, stifles its economy and impedes reconstruction efforts.”

“It’s a collective punishment for which there must be accountability,” the secretary-general added.

While slamming the blockade, imposed by Israel and Egypt to prevent Gaza’s Hamas terrorist rulers from importing weaponry, UN chief said that until “Gaza and the West Bank are united under a single, democratic and legitimate government, Gaza’s prospect will be limited.”

Ban on Tuesday met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In a joint press conference, Netanyahu called on him to use his position in the international community to help secure the release of the remains of Israeli soldiers held in Gaza as well as Israeli civilians said captive there.

The issue has leaped to the top of the Israeli agenda in recent days amid a detente agreement with Turkey that does not include Gaza giving up the bodies and prisoners as had been hoped.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, stands next to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as they deliver statements in Jerusalem on June 28, 2016. (AFP/POOL/RONEN ZVULUN)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, stands next to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as they deliver statements in Jerusalem on June 28, 2016. (AFP/POOL/RONEN ZVULUN)

Relatives have harshly protested the deal, and they are expected to join part of the meeting between Netanyahu and Ban later on Tuesday.

Ban said he understood Israel’s frustrations and fears but warned Netanyahu of the dangers if a two-state solution with the Palestinians is not reached.

“I encourage you to take the courageous steps necessary to prevent a one-state reality of perpetual conflict,” Ban said. “No solutions to the conflict will be possible without the recognition that both Palestinians and Jews have undeniable historic and religious connection to this land. No solutions can come through violence. It must be based on mutual respect and recognition of the legitimate aspirations of both peoples.”

Ban also backed the Israeli position of direct talks being the only way to solve the conflict, though he says the international community can help.

“No solutions can be imposed on the outside. It must be based on direct talks,” he said, adding that he would work until his last day in office toward a solution.

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