U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon entered the war-battered Gaza Strip on Tuesday to assess the damage following Israel’s three-week long bombardment.
Rebuilding the thousands of homes and buildings damaged or destroyed in the Gaza Strip during the three-week conflict will cost billions, the UN has said.
Ban met with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert earlier today.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday said that Hamas was fully responsible for the damage caused during Israel’s 22-day offensive in Gaza and must not be allowed to lead reconstruction efforts.
“Hamas bears full responsibility for the destruction in the Gaza Strip and the harm to innocents, therefore, Hamas must not be allowed to lead the reconstruction process in the Strip and receive any kind of legitimacy from this,” Olmert told visiting Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.
Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (R) meets U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Jerusalem in this January 20, 2009 picture released by the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO). Confronted by stark scenes of destruction, Ban visited the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, and Israel was poised to withdraw its troops before the U.S. presidential inauguration later in the day. REUTERS/Avi Ohayon
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he is appalled by Israeli attacks on a UN compound in Gaza after seeing the destruction for himself.
Mr Ban said that those responsible should be held accountable and demanded a “full investigation” through proper judiciary systems.
He was speaking in front of the smouldering remains of the UN food warehouse destroyed by Israeli shells.
He said he would do all he could to help the population of Gaza.
Appearing stern and at times angry, Mr Ban called the attacks “outrageous” and demanded guarantees that it would never happen again.
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Residents of the Gaza Strip have taken their first close look at the large-scale destruction across their crowded territory.
First estimates by independent surveyors said Gaza lost nearly $2 billion in assets during Israel’s three-week war on Hamas, including 4,100 homes, about 1,500 factories and workshops, 20 mosques, 31 security compounds and 10 water or sewage lines.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been left homeless and 400,000 people still have no running water, a UN report said.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will visit Gaza on Tuesday to inspect the damage.
A fragile ceasefire between Israel and Hamas militants is holding, allowing many Palestinians to return home to assess the damage.
Many Gazans seemed overwhelmed, saying they didn’t even know where to start with the cleanup.
The return of civilians comes as Hamas declared victory over Israel but the Islamic group vowed to replenish its arms stockpiles in the wake of the 22-day onslaught on Gaza.
Ismail Haniya, the deposed Palestinian prime minister and political leader in Gaza, said the “armed resistance” had triumphed by surviving the Israeli operation.