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UN chief: Gaza damage is worse than after 2008-9 war

In visit to the Strip, Ban Ki-moon says destruction is ‘beyond description,’ warns of more violence in absence of peace talks

A Palestinian family walks on August 27, 2014, past the collapsed remains of a building in Shejaiya that was destroyed in fighting between Hamas and Israel. (AFP/ROBERTO SCHMIDT)
A Palestinian family walks on August 27, 2014, past the collapsed remains of a building in Shejaiya that was destroyed in fighting between Hamas and Israel. (AFP/ROBERTO SCHMIDT)

United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon made a brief visit Tuesday to the Gaza Strip, two days after donor states pledged $5.4 billion in aid to the Palestinians in the wake of the summer conflict with Israel.

He was driven through the ruins of Gaza City’s Shejaiya neighborhood and the nearby Jabaliya refugee camp, the scenes of some of the heaviest fighting during the campaign.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians were displaced by the destruction, and on Tuesday people camping outside their ravaged homes were seen waving at the convoy of white UN vehicles as it passed.

After meeting members of the newly convened Palestinian consensus government, Ban told reporters that the devastation he had seen was far worse than that caused in the previous Gaza conflict of winter 2008-2009, known in Israel as Operation Cast Lead.

“The destruction which I have seen while coming to here is beyond description. This is a much more serious destruction than what I saw in 2009.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks during a press conference at the Gaza donor conference in Cairo, Egypt, on October 12, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Khaled Desouki)
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks during a press conference at the Gaza donor conference in Cairo, Egypt, on October 12, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Khaled Desouki)

“I’d like to take this opportunity to express my deepest condolences to people who lost their lives… and loved ones,” he said.

Ban, who last visited the territory in 2012, said at a donor conference in Egypt on Sunday that his trip to the Palestinian enclave was “to listen directly to the people of Gaza.”

At the Cairo conference, Ban said “the root causes of the recent hostilities” were “a restrictive occupation that has lasted almost half a century, the continued denial of Palestinian rights and the lack of tangible progress in peace negotiations.”

On Tuesday he urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders to revive collapsed peace talks without delay.

“I’m asking the leaders of both parties… to resume their talks,” he said. “Otherwise it’s a matter of time that the violence will continue.”

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