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Middle East - report

Open Gaza border, says UN chief Ban

by Tony Cross

Article published on the 2009-01-20 Latest update 2009-01-26 09:04 TU

Ban Ki-moon and Sderot's mayor David Bouskila.(Photo: T Cross)

Ban Ki-moon and Sderot's mayor David Bouskila.
(Photo: T Cross)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called for Gaza’s borders to be opened and for Palestinian national unity, on a visit to southern Israel Tuesday. Ban also called for the frontier to be policed to prevent the smuggling of arms to Palestinian militant groups.

Press conference: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon

26/01/2009

Ban spoke at a carefully-managed press conference in the town of Sderot after a visit to Gaza where he called for the perpetrators of a deadly Israeli attack on a UN-run school to be found and punished.

“All Gaza’s crossings must be fully opened,” Ban said, after welcoming the ceasefire, first declared by Israel and followed by a declaration of a week-long truce by Hamas.

Ban added a call for “transparent, clear border management”, to ensure that no weapons are taken into the strip for use by armed Palestinian factions - Israel’s main demand at the end of its offensive.

“To make the ceasefire durable, there needs to be national unity of the Palestinians,” the UN chief said.

He called for a “reconciliatory dialogue” to bring together Palestinian factions, without specifying whether that should include Hamas, which controlled Gaza before the offensive and won the last Palestinian general election, only to be boycotted by Israel, the US and the EU and then dismissed from government by Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas.

Israeli officials organised the press conference in Sderot’s police station, ensuring the UN Secretary-General appeared before a display of rockets fired from Gaza onto the town.

Ban condemned Hamas for carrying out rocket attacks and expressed sympathy for the “trauma” experienced by Sderot residents.

He added that political action must follow the end of the latest military operation “or there will be increased radicalisation among the Palestinians”.