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UN Appeals for $2.8B for Palestinians  04/17 06:06

   The United Nations appealed for $2.8 billion on Tuesday to provide 
desperately needed aid to 3 million Palestinians, stressing that tackling 
looming famine in war-torn Gaza requires not only food but sanitation, water 
and health facilities.

   UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The United Nations appealed for $2.8 billion on 
Tuesday to provide desperately needed aid to 3 million Palestinians, stressing 
that tackling looming famine in war-torn Gaza requires not only food but 
sanitation, water and health facilities.

   Andrea De Domenico, the head of the U.N. humanitarian office for Gaza and 
the West Bank, told reporters that "massive operations" are required to restore 
those services and meet minimum standards -- and this can't be done during 
military operations.

   He pointed to the destruction of hospitals, water and sanitation facilities, 
homes, roads and schools, adding that "there is not a single university that is 
standing in Gaza."

   De Domenico said Israel's recently-ended second major military operation at 
Shifa Hospital, Gaza's largest medical facility, was so destructive the 
facility has been forced to shut down. As an example, he questioned what the 
military objective was in shooting an MRI scanner that examines parts of the 
body and can detect cancers.

   He said his team has been dealing with "a scene of terror" at the hospital, 
with U.N. and Palestinian colleagues helping people try to recognize family 
members from shoes or clothes on "the remnants of corpses."

   Israel promised to open more border crossings into Gaza and increase the 
flow of aid into Gaza after its drone strikes killed seven aid workers from the 
World Central Kitchen who were delivering food into the territory on April 1.

   The killings were condemned by Israel's closest allies and heightened 
criticism of Israel's conduct in the 6-month-old war with Hamas, sparked by the 
extremist group's surprise attack in southern Israel that killed about 1,200 
people and led some 250 others to be taken hostage. The Israeli offensive in 
Gaza aimed at destroying Hamas has caused widespread devastation and killed 
over 33,800 people, according to local health officials.

   De Domenico said there are signs of Israel's "good intention" to get more 
humanitarian assistance into Gaza, citing the opening of a crossing to the 
north, which faces the most serious threat of famine, and the opening of 
bakeries there.

   But the U.N. keeps pushing Israel to do more, he said.

   De Domenico pointed to Israeli denials and delays on U.N. requests for aid 
convoys to enter Gaza.

   He said 41% of U.N. requests that required going through Israeli checkpoints 
were denied during the week from April 6-12, and last week a convoy from the 
U.N. children's agency UNICEF and the U.N. World Food Program was caught in 
crossfire in an area that was supposed to be safe.

   De Domenico said convoys often spend hours at checkpoints and are only 
cleared in the afternoon, too late to make deliveries and return safely in 
daylight hours. He said the Israelis know this is how the U.N. operates, and 
delays allow them to say "we're not blindly denying you" while controlling what 
happens.

   "We continue to engage with them and our objective is really to solve the 
issue and deliver aid," he said.

   According to the international community's authority on determining the 
severity of hunger crises, famine is imminent in northern Gaza where 70% of 
people are experiencing catastrophic hunger. And its recent report warned that 
escalating the war could push half of Gaza's 2.3 million people to the brink of 
starvation.

   De Domenico said the U.N. appeal was scaled back from $4 billion because of 
difficulties in getting aid into Gaza -- and most importantly getting it to the 
people who need it most.

   He said 90% of the $2.8 billion being sought for the rest of the year is for 
Gaza and 10% is for the West Bank, which has seen an upsurge in violence and 
settler attacks.

 
 
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