Friday, August 26, 2005

Day 3 - Gaza: report

August 25, 2005

On the third day, the delegation left for the Gaza Strip. At the Erez border crossing, it managed to enter the Strip without much delay.

The delegation was received by UNWRA personnel. In a UN bus, it drove off to the UNWRA office in Jabalia refugee camp, an extremely crowded place with 106.000 Palestinians living on only 1,3 square kilometer. In the camp, the delegation visited a rehabilitation center. Consequently, it witnessed two projects of UNWRA, one realizing the pavement of streets in Jabalia camp, the other offering support and housing to so-called hardship cases.

Before setting of for the next meeting, the delegation was received by the Commissioner General of UNWRA, Ms. Karen AbuZayd. With her, a lively discussion evolved on the economic prospects of the Gaza Strip following Israel’s “disengagement”. Various participants expressed their concerns about misplaced perceptions within the international community that Israel’s occupation has come to and end. It has not, considering the fact that Israel will fully remain in control of the Gaza Strip.

This was also confirmed during a briefing that the delegation received after the UNWRA meeting, This briefing had been prepared by the media center of the Palestinian Authority, which currently focuses on the disengagement.

Before leaving the Gaza Strip, the delegation had lunch with a number of civil society representatives. Among them was Dr. Haidar Abdel Shafi, director of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society and former negotiator following the Madrid Conference in 1991. With these representatives, the delegation discussed how to respond to the current circumstances.