World Bulletin / News Desk
Turkey is "fighting " to break Israel's years-long siege of the Gaza Strip, the enclave's Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said on Wednesday.
"I haven't forgotten about Turkey, which keeps fighting diplomatically and politically to help lift the siege on the Gaza Strip," Haniyeh told a press conference.
Turkey downgraded relations with Israel in 2011 and expelled the Israeli ambassador after the self-proclaimed Jewish state refused to apologize for killing nine Turkish activists aboard a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in 2010.
The Turkish government sponsors a number of charity and development projects in the Gaza Strip.
Speaking at an inauguration ceremony for a handful of Qatar-funded projects, Haniyeh called on Egypt to fully reopen the Rafah border crossing.
Haniyeh's appeal came after Egypt allowed the entry of building materials for the projects into the strip.
Gaza's population of almost two million continues to face harsh economic conditions and a dire humanitarian situation as a result of an Israeli blockade first imposed on the strip in 2007.
Gazans complain that frequent border closures by Egypt, in conjunction with Israel's seven-year-old embargo on the coastal enclave, have contributed to the strip's deteriorating economic circumstances.
Egypt has tightened its grip on its border with Gaza since last July, when the army ousted Mohamed Morsi – the country's first freely elected president – on the back of demonstrations against his presidency.
Egyptian authorities accuse Hamas, which has governed the strip since 2007, of interfering in Egypt's domestic affairs and carrying out attacks inside the country – charges Hamas emphatically denies.
Gaza blockade 'longest in history': UNRWA
Newly-appointed United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl on Wednesday described Israel's seven-year siege of the Gaza Strip as the "longest in history."
Speaking at a conference in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, he added that the blockade was being used to collectively punish the Palestinian people.
Krahenbuhl said he would make the Gaza blockade the focal point in his future talks with officials.
He said everybody should focus on the fact that Gaza's people merely wanted their dignity, freedom and humanity.
He added that deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian enclave were apparent to everybody.
Krahenbuhl said that in 2000, the UNRWA had offered aid to around 80,000 refugees in the Gaza Strip. He added that the agency now provides aid to some 800,000 refugees in the territory, adding that this amount was increasing year after year.
He said the UNRWA – despite its limited budget – would do its best to reach more poor people in Gaza.
The official added that he would brief Israeli officials on conditions in Gaza, noting that the UNRWA was determined to find a solution to the crisis.
Gaza Strip's roughly 1.8 million inhabitants have groaned under a harsh Israeli blockade since 2007, which continues to deprive them of most essential goods.Last Mod: 16 Nisan 2014, 18:05