Tuesday, 27 January 2015

UN halts Gaza house repairs saying donors failed to pay up

GAZA CITY (AFP) -- The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said on Tuesday that it cannot afford to repair Gaza homes damaged in last year's war with Israel because donors have failed to pay.

"The agency has exhausted all funding to support repairs and rental subsidies," the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said in a statement.

"$5.4 billion was pledged at the Cairo (aid) conference last October and virtually none of it has reached Gaza. This is distressing and unacceptable.

"It is unclear why this funding has not been forthcoming," it added.

UNRWA said that the homes of more than 96,000 Palestine refugees were destroyed or damaged during the conflict.

They made up the vast majority of the more than 100,000 homes that were hit during the 50-day conflict between Israel and Hamas.

UNRWA said: "Some funds remain available to begin the reconstruction of totally destroyed homes."

But it added that cutting subsidies to displaced residents currently renting alternative accommodation could force large numbers back to UN schools and centres which are already sheltering 12,000 people.

"UNRWA in Gaza has so far provided over $77 million to 66,000 Palestine refugee families to repair their home or find a temporary alternative," it said.

"This is a tremendous achievement; it is also wholly insufficient... We are talking about thousands of families who continue to suffer through this cold winter with inadequate shelter. People are literally sleeping amongst the rubble. Children have died of hypothermia."

Two babies died in Gaza earlier this month as dozens of homes were flooded in brutal storms that brought freezing rain and gale-force winds.

Gaza's sole power station, which was damaged during the war, is struggling with a severe lack of fuel and is only able to supply the enclave with six hours of power per day. more

Israeli navy sinks Gaza fishing boat, detains four fishermen

A Palestinian fishing boat drowned, on Monday evening, after Israeli navy ships fired rounds of live ammunition at it in Palestinian waters, west of Gaza city. The soldiers also kidnapped four fishermen.

Eyewitnesses said the navy first fired live rounds at the boat, then used loud speakers ordering the four fishermen on board to jump in the cold water, and swim towards them.

The four were then cuffed and blindfolded, before they were taken to an unknown destination.

The boat belongs to members of the al-Habeel family, for whom fishing is their only source of livelihood.

The attack is one of hundreds of similar assaults and violations carried out by the Israeli army against the Palestinians in the besieged and impoverished coastal region.

The Israeli navy now targets Palestinian fishing boats almost on daily basis, in clear breach of the Egyptian-brokered truce agreement reached on August 26 of last year.

This agreement includes allowing Palestinian fishermen to sail within 6 nautical miles in the Gaza Sea, with an incremental expansion in the allotted area. more

Israeli troops open fire at Gaza farmers near border, no injuries

Israeli forces on Tuesday morning fired at Palestinian agricultural lands across the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, witnesses said.

Witnesses told Ma'an that several Israeli military vehicles stationed near a gate on the border fence east of Khan Younis opened fire several times toward Palestinian fields on the other side of the border. No injuries have been reported.

Farmers were forced to leave their fields. more