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Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, joined by Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson and John Ging, Director of Operations, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Spokesman:  Thank you for coming.  We’re joined here by our Deputy Secretary-General and by John Ging, who, as you know, is the Director of Operations for OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs).  They are both here to talk to you about the current situation in Gaza.  [Deputy Secretary-General], sir, you have the floor.

Deputy Secretary-General:  Thank you very much.  Ladies and gentlemen of the press, dear friends.  Sometimes you run out of words.  I was thinking of how to start this briefing, and I am saying that we have received with shock and dismay the news of the bombing this morning of a UN-designated shelter in a school killing at least 16 civilians, including several children and injuring more than a 100 people.  They were there under UN protection, under our protection, and after warnings from the Israeli Defence Forces, who had numerous times been informed about the presence of over 3,000 civilians at this location.  The exact location was communicated to the Israeli Defence Forces as late as 2050 hours, 8:50 p.m. last night.  UNRWA’s [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] initial assessment and all indicators are that it was an Israeli artillery that hit the school.  An Israeli spokesperson has confirmed that mortar fires had been coming from militants in the vicinity of the school and that Israeli troops had fired back in response.  That was a quote from an Israeli spokesperson.

The Secretary-General, an hour ago, made a statement upon arrival on an official visit to Costa Rica, condemning the attack on Jabalia Elementary Girls School.  He made that condemnation in the strongest possible terms.  He called the attack outrageous and unjustifiable and made the point that it demands accountability and justice.  He called on the parties to stop the fighting and to agree to an immediate unconditional ceasefire.

John Ging will expand on some of the aspects related to the humanitarian situation, but I would also, as a former Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and having worked with this, also add a few points on the situation of the people in Gaza.  UNRWA has now sheltered altogether over 200,000 people in schools and other shelter buildings.  The size of Gaza Strip is 139 square miles, 360 square kilometres.  Since we are in the United States, let’s make some comparison.  It’s about the same size as the metropolitan areas of Detroit, of Philadelphia or Las Vegas.  Gaza City has more than 10 times the population density of Washington, D.C.  So, when the Israeli Defense Forces ask that the population, or request, or inform that there might military activity, where do they go?  There’s very few places to go in Gaza.

Also yesterday was another dimension added to the humanitarian plight, namely the destruction of the sole power plant in Gaza.  And this means that we will have immediate, mid-term and even long-term effects on issues that are related to the survival of a civilian population.  Gaza is dependent on pumping ground water and pumps will not work, or work in a very limited way.  You will have, you will need water for the people who need to come out and for their children and for their survivors, in fact.  They will have to go out on the street and trucks will, if possible, deliver water.  John will expand on this.  And how can you run a hospital without clean water?   How can you keep food, if you can’t freeze, have refrigerators?  All these, everything we take for granted is gone.

So, we have a hugely dangerous situation from a humanitarian perspective.  And I don’t think we need more reminders of the importance of stopping this horror.  We have to see the end of fighting.  And I hope that the restraint is shown from all sides.  We are talking about artillery attacks from Israel today, but we must also talk about the rockets going into Israel and attacks through the tunnels.  Yes, but, if you see the result of the violence used, it is an enormously disproportionate effect of that violence and I would hope that all parties now really put the human being in the centre — see what price is being paid and the effect of this horror going on — what will be the short-term, long-term effect, both [in] UN terms and political terms.  And therefore, we hope that the proposals from several sides on humanitarian ceasefires, not least from the Secretary-General, will be taken seriously.  We hope that that will be considered immediately.  There was an idea of a humanitarian pause from Israel for 4 hours which, evidently, according to what we have received, not been respected fully.  And we need, we need to really have that pause, so that we can then discuss a more durable ceasefire and go to some of the more underlying issues.  But, for me, this is a moment when you really have to say “enough is enough” and where you have to search for the right words to convince those who have the power to stop this.  John, please.

Mr. Ging:  Thank you [Deputy Secretary-General] and thank you for putting the attention squarely focussed on the human beings that are caught up in this tragic situation.  Just to give a sense of the scale of the horror that they are currently enduring:  5,750 of their homes have now been destroyed.  That’s why you have over 240,000 people in these temporary locations — we call them internally displaced — 204,000 people in the UNRWA schools and they’re seeking protection there, as the [Deputy Secretary-General] has highlighted.  These locations are not safe, nowhere is safe.  One hundred and thirty-three schools have already been hit by shelling or fire from those involved in this conflict.  And that sense of dramatic trauma that parents are seized with, it’s, you know, it’s mortal fear.  And they are right to be in fear, because the casualty rate continues to go up.  We’ve been communicating to you for the last number of days that it’s a child per hour that is being killed.  So, every hour that this conflict goes on, another innocent child is killed.  And the casualty rates, they just continue to grow.  Right now, the number is very close to 1,200 Palestinians killed and 6,233 injured.  So, that is reflective of the real danger that faces the population inside Gaza at the moment, and 21 per cent of those casualties are indeed children — 249 children have lost their lives so far.  So, the number one issue here is protection, the mortal fear that has gripped the population.  They are being told “flee areas, get out of areas”, but to where?  Where should they go?  And again, we don’t have the answer for them on that, and if this were a conflict elsewhere in the world, they would at least have the option of crossing borders and seeking sanctuary in neighbouring countries.  They don’t have that option in this particular case.

The second challenge, of course, is for humanitarians to operate.  And again here, the danger that the relentless nature of this conflict creates for humanitarians — just to get out there and do the things that they need to do.  Obviously, on a daily basis, the humanitarians need to go to each of these schools, where you have 200,000-plus people with water, with food.  These are not purpose built shelters, these are just schools — thousands of people in classrooms.  The sanitation facilities — they are wholly and totally inadequate for that number of families to be in those locations.  So, we have to bring water every day, we have to bring food every day and so forth.

As the [Deputy Secretary-General] has said, the humanitarian plight of ordinary people, now that the power plant has been shut down because of the last round of shelling against that, is that no water is being pumped into houses, means that people have to come out to get just drinking water.  Where are they going?  They are basically waiting for water trucks from humanitarian organizations to go street by street and provide water.  This, again, operationally, without a pause in the violence is next to impossible in too many… in too many areas.  So, the scale of the urgency of the crisis now for ordinary people cannot be overstated.

We must also remember that this is an aid dependent population in a huge percentage — over 70 per cent of the population require and need food assistance.  We also have a population that, like any population anywhere in the world, also needs daily health care.  Twenty-three of the medial facilities across the Gaza Strip have been destroyed to the point of now being out of use.  Where are people to get their mediation, pregnant women and so forth?  The hospitals are desperately short of medical supplies.  WHO [World Health Organization] have said that the list of essential drugs are at zero, or close to zero, in terms of stock levels.  That means very critical.  So, again, everything that is required to provide life-saving support to the population, both in terms of supplies and how to get those supplies to the people, has become next, nigh or impossible for us to do what we are expected to do.  And the level of frustration among the population to us is very high at the moment.  You know, they feel that the world has lost its humanity, lost its sense of realization of what they are going through.  This is the most intensive round of conflict that they have ever experienced and this is a place that has gone through many rounds of conflict.  If you go back to the last round of conflict, it’s four times more people displaced in UNRWA schools than last time round.  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Thank you very much.  Pam?

Question:  Good afternoon Deputy Secretary-General, excuse me, Eliasson and Mr. Ging, thank you for the briefing on behalf of the UN Correspondents Association.  My question is about the school attack.  If it does turn out to be Israel, what is accountability in your mind, I mean is this a war crime?  And, is there some plan, short of a ceasefire, to protect UNRWA schools in Gaza?  Thank you.  In other words, more robust peacekeeping…?

Deputy Secretary-General:  Well, on the second part, we have asked for protection of all the sites where we have, where we are sheltering civilians who are now internally displaced.  Basically, also, you go back to the Geneva Conventions about protection of civilians in all its aspects and of course this goes particularly for installations like hospitals and schools.  We are mentioning the issue of justice and accountability and we are not at a stage where we can take that second step.  We have just made initial observations and UNRWA sent us this, what I quoted to you and we will take it from there.

Question:  And on the protection, on possible protection of… I mean, is there any UN plan to send in anyone to protect?

Deputy Secretary-General:  We are protecting the civilians with our own staff.  There were people sleeping in the same school.

Question:  There have been several UNRWA staff members… there were several UNRWA staff members killed, correct?

Deputy Secretary-General:  Yes, we have lost six people in Gaza.  But, I also feel this is, for us, of course, an act of solidarity with the people that we were trying to protect ourselves.  But, I think of all the people that I have seen in the last year during my travel to Afghanistan, to Somalia, to Mali, all over, where the conditions are now so enormously dangerous.  And I don’t want, in any way, to bring up our staff, but when also we notice that we are being criticized, we are being approached, “why don’t you do more?”  We know that we have our own people there, sometimes sacrificing their lives.  It’s extremely difficult.  We have no other protection facility than our own staff who do the humanitarian work now.

Question:  Thank you.  President Mahmoud Abbas has asked, in general terms for the UN to provide some kind of protection for the Palestinian people and the Secretary-General and the UN hasn’t responded to this request.  What does it take to do that?  This is one.  And there is a general feeling in the Arab world that Israel can get away with any war crime or crime against humanity.  Is it true or not?

Deputy Secretary-General:  On the situation in Gaza, there was a proposal yesterday which was supposed to be supported, both by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, and in fact Islamic Jihad, but it turned out that there was not full unity on that proposal.  But, I think your question goes to the broader issue of the protection of Palestinians — that is a very serious issue and we have received that request and we have discussed the issue with the Security Council and it is not an easy thing to think about how such protection could work.  We have examples from East Timor and we have the examples from Kosovo and we are looking into that.  We have had Palestinian delegates discussing it with our Legal Adviser, but we are also looking into that under, looking at different forms.  I think this goes beyond the Gaza situation, but of course, it’s a sign of desperation that President Abbas has suggested that we look into the UN providing protection in the absence of protection from the occupying Power.

Correspondent:  Thank you, Stéphane.

Deputy Secretary-General:  I note, I hear the same thing.  For us, it is of course important that we don’t have double standards and we’ll do everything we can to make sure that we don’t walk along the road of double standards.

Question:  Thank you — a comment please from both men, if possible.  What is the link between increasingly missiles found in schools run by the UN and attacks on facilities by Israel?  And do you think it’s putting UN personnel, Gaza citizens at risk by these missiles in the school and what’s the latest on any early investigation as to why this keeps happening — missiles being found?

Deputy Secretary-General:  Well, we have reacted very strongly against and are investigating it and it’s absolutely unacceptable.  But John, you have more information.

Mr. Ging:  I think we need to be crystal clear here.  The schools where rockets have been found have been schools that have been abandoned by the UN due to the intensity of conflict in those areas.  The rockets have been found by the UN when they went back to recover those schools and that’s due to the due diligence and the very good investigative approach that they take to make sure that when they are in control of a school, they can actually stand over the fact that it is free from weapons and that nobody with arms is allowed into that school.  Obviously, when you abandon a property, it is out of your control.  Both the militants, and also the Israeli forces have occupied those schools in the past that have been abandoned by the UN.  We deplore that, but we can’t control that.  What we can control is the schools that we are in control of, and, as I say, in the case, in each and every case where schools are under the UN control, there’s a very careful inspection regime to make sure that there are no violations either by armed people coming in or that there are any arms hidden in that school.  And that’s done by inspecting the school on an ongoing basis and particularly when recovering a school that has been abandoned.

Question:  Has there been a link to an attack on one of these properties?

Mr. Ging:  No school that has been sheltering people or has been under the UN’s control have there been weapons found in while under the UN’s control.  So, again, there is no excuse to say that there are weapons in these schools when they are being used as shelters or under the UN’s control.

Spokesman:  Benny?

Question:  There have been several cases in which, at least one case yesterday in which an Italian reporter who left Gaza said that the fire at Shatirefugee camp came actually from, within Gaza.  Now, the same situation that there is no clear conclusion yet as to who hit the power plant, there’s no clear conclusion yet as to who hit the school in Jabalia today.  Although, it’s interesting that UNRWA came out with the conclusion that it was Israel very quickly, as opposed to say the situation with the UNRWA schools, which is still investigating where those rockets went to in the end.  Did they go back to Hamas or not?  There are all kinds of reports, conflicting reports on that.  So, how come this discrepancy between those two?  And one more general question and that is, is there any sense that, in fact, the situation you mentioned before, Mr. Eliasson, you mentioned how small the Gaza Strip is, but is there any sense that Hamas as a fighting force is endangering the population by mere[ly] continuing the fight?  And one more thing about the…

Spokesman:  Let’s just do two questions, thank you.  Nice try.

Deputy Secretary-General:  Yes, well, UNRWA evidently had more clear indications this time than they had in the first case and the confirmation by the Spokesperson of Israeli Defense Forces that in fact there was, as they claimed, a rocket sent from the area and that they had returned fire, points in the direction, of course, that it was the Israeli artillery.  There also must be other elements that I don’t have in front of me, but Pierre Krähenbühl is extremely careful with his judgement and he was not ready to go for those conclusions in the first case, but he is definitely this time as you can see from his statement.  Well, since Gaza is of this limited size, every military action will be close to the civilian population — that is a fact of life, and 16 people have just paid the price for that.

Spokesman: Raghida?

Question:  A couple of clarifications.  You said that the discussion of the protection of the Palestinians in the light of East Timor and Kosovo, that you have been looking at that.  Has this started after the Gaza operations?  Has this been going on for a while?  And, on the immediate level, are you asking the Security Council to take action, in as far as targeting these schools?  I mean, you have been asked several times if this is a war crime; what do you mean to do about it, because you’re only saying we will… we are protecting the civilians with our own staff.  How long is this sustainable?  I mean, are you thinking something else?  Do you need something from the Security Council in order to give protection, immediate and then you could discuss the long term?  Thank you.

Deputy Secretary-General:  I think this proposal has been around for some time, but formally communicated to us in the beginning of this recent crisis, but it has been under discussion for some time — the lack of protection as the Palestinians see it and the need for alternative protection methods.  It’s a very difficult issue and it has been discussed most recently at a Security Council luncheon this week with the Secretary-General, and we are looking into the different alternatives.  We will see what will happen on that, but that is the sequence, long-standing problem for the Palestinians and now this question of whether alternative protection models are possible.  The second thing was… we will… what we are asking for… the Secretary-General was, as you know, in the region for six days and worked very hard with all concerned, all the countries concerned, including Secretary Kerry, by the way, who worked very diligently on this and we are aiming for a humanitarian ceasefire and if that requires some type of monitoring, then we are willing to look into that.  But, we have not reached that stage yet.

Question:  Can you address that part of the question on whether this is considered a war crime and whether you are asking for a condemnation by the Security Council?

Deputy Secretary-General:  When we get the final conclusions from this attack and the final report from UNRWA, we will see what steps we’ll take.  It is also a matter for the Security Council to consider.  The Security Council has already, of course in their presidential statement, asked for such a humanitarian ceasefire.


Question:  Thank you.  Sir, what is your response to the assertion from Israel that they were responding to a rocket that was launched from near the school?  And secondly, does the UN have any evidence that Hamas is using civilians as shields during their operations?

Deputy Secretary-General:  Well, we received this news this morning.  All this happened at five o’clock this morning.  And, it is, of course… what we are seeing is a vicious circle of violence.  And you have two spectacles, two eyeglasses, to look at this, responding to the possible rocket attack from Hamas in the neighbourhood of a school in the crowded Gaza and returning the fire.  The question is always and should always be for anyone involved in such a situation, you should ask yourself, do we run a risk of having large scale civilian casualties?  What does the Geneva Convention say?  What could be the collateral damage?  This type of discussion has been going on.  The Israeli Defense Forces are aware of that.  They are asking people to leave certain areas before an attack takes place.  But, if you look at the proportions between casualties on the Israeli side and the Palestinian side and look at the proportions between military and civilian, you will come to the conclusion that the scale of response is of such violent nature that questions of accountability come up.

Spokesman:  Kristen?

Question:  Kristen Saloomey from Al Jazeera.  I’m going to take a stab at that question in a different way, and that is, under international law does… is Israel relieved of collective responsibility in a situation like this?

Deputy Secretary-General:  No country is an exception to living up to Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law.


Question:  My question is, of course, regarding the siege which is going on even at the time when the inhabitants have no water and no medicine, and of course, are under constant bombardment.  What are the duties of Egypt and Israel with regard to providing for these inhabitants of Gaza?

Mr. Ging:  This is exactly the issue for the people of Gaza, that they have been under this relentless blockade where there has been very severe curtailment on the entry of just ordinary goods for the society’s own needs and also for the economy of Gaza; and that’s why the Secretary-General has in all of his quotes been very clear that the situation for the people of Gaza is just not sustainable.  There has to be a change for their economic status and their welfare.  I mean, it’s just not sustainable.

Question:  Here, we are not just talking about general consensus.  Now, the people are facing death from thirst and also facing death from lack of medicine or access to hospitals.  What do you call for Egypt and Israel to do?  Are they allowing any kind of medicine or help to these people at this time?

Mr. Ging:  Yes.  In terms of access for the most immediate life-saving supplies right now, both Egypt and Israel are allowing the passage of supplies into Gaza.  In the case of Egypt, they’re allowing the exit of medical cases.  Some medical cases have also exited into Israel and the Kerem Shalom crossing point is being used on a daily basis to bring in the vital supplies that are required right now.


Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  This is for the [Deputy Secretary-General]:  now, a lot of the targets, we see that they say they had notified the IDF, the Israeli [Defense] Forces, of their coordination, including some of these schools that were hit, that the Israelis actually knew that there were civilians there.  There were media companies that were bombed.  There were places that hosted kids, children.  When we come back to the question of accountability, you mentioned some alternatives.  Can you talk about what options there are?  I know you answered a little bit, but can you kind of elaborate on it?  What are the options that you guys have as the UN for now, when this conflict ends, for both sides that are violating?

Deputy Secretary-General:  It’s too early to go into that.  We have to wait for the final reports and then decide what to do.  And it’s also a question of what the Security Council, and Member States and the Security Council, would like to do on this.

Spokesman:  Joe?

Question:  You mentioned the brief humanitarian pause that Israel had initiated and you didn’t say explicitly but Hamas rejected.  In the last 24 hours, the leader of the military wing of Hamas has said no ceasefire until all of their conditions are met, including complete open access through the crossings, and he talked about jihad, which essentially is repeating the charter of Hamas, which calls for the killing of Jews and destruction of the State of Israel.  So, in light of all of that, if Hamas refuses to even honour any pause, tell me exactly what you expect Israel to do?  To unilaterally just cease all fire, withdraw the IDF, allow the tunnels to continue to remain in place?  Just in that situation, assuming Hamas continues to refuse a ceasefire as has been proposed by Egypt, et cetera.  Thank you.

Deputy Secretary-General:  You’re asking me to provide the golden formula, but let me say that, of course, what we ask for is an immediate end of the fighting.  The problem is that both sides have demands that go beyond the urgent situation today.  Israel demands that, of course, the rocket attacks end, but also that the tunnels into Israel be destroyed, which has a timeline of a different character.  And Gaza, Hamas and the Palestinians require that there are indications and guarantees that something will happen on the blockade of Gaza.  And here, I think, it is important that we try to see this now as an absolutely humanitarian urgency to stop the fighting, and during that end of the fighting there might be a chance then to work for the more durable ceasefire, where those larger issues can be raised.

Spokesman:  Mr. Abbadi?  Could you use your microphone, please?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.   Thank you, Mr. Deputy-Secretary-General and John Ging for this briefing.  I would like to concentrate my question on the school children.  I understand that this is the sixth time that school children have… that the schools have been attacked in the past until now.  Perhaps Mr. Ging can confirm that.  Now, Mr. Ging has just said that there were 249 children dead.  Now, we have heard from the Secretary-General on Gaza and the humanitarian situation, including school children.  We have heard from you and we have heard from Mr. Ging.  Did you hear anything from the organization that is in charge of children, namely UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund]?

Mr. Ging:  Yes, absolutely.  UNICEF, as you know, are on the ground in Gaza right now and they have, with UNRWA, because there is a division of labour between UNRWA and UNICEF, big programmes for the children.  And the children are at the very centre of their preoccupation; so no question about that.  And they’re very much ramping up their programming right now.  They’re coming out with an additional appeal for not just the physical but also the psychosocial dimension of support to children…

Question:  What did UNICEF exactly say?  Did the Executive Director say anything?

Mr. Ging:  We can come back to you on that.

Spokesman:  We can give you the statements from UNICEF.  Colum and then Matthew?  Microphone, please.

Question:  Hi, thanks.  First, just some figures, if you can give us the exact number of how many UN shelters, schools have been attacked with displaced people in them during the conflict?  And also, did any UN staff die in today’s attack?  And do you have any update on the Beit Hanoun attack, on whether you know who is responsible for it?

Mr. Ging:  We don’t have any reports of UN staff having been killed today.  This is the fifth school that has been used as a shelter that has been hit.  And what was the other question…?

Spokesman:  UN staff that has been killed.

Mr. Ging:  We didn’t have any UN staff killed as yet in those schools that were hit they were being used as shelters.  We did have UN staff injured in the Beit Hanoun, one UN staff member was injured in that school; and we don’t yet have further details on, again, the actual accountability on the Beit Hanoun case.

Question:  Do you have the number of people who have injured or killed since the beginning of the conflict in UN-run shelters?  I guess you may not have the answer today.

Spokesman:  We’ll come back to you on that specific number.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, thanks a lot.  Matthew Lee, Inner City Press, on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access.  Thanks for the briefing.  It seems like on this immediate end of the fighting, a sticking point is whether the IDF would remain in Gaza at all.  It seems like one of the demands is that they leave in order for there to be a cessation.  I want to know if the UN… not the whole golden formula, but just on that one point, what your thinking is, and also, whether the UN and Secretary-General should reach out directly to Hamas.  I know that, you know, former OCHA head Jan Egeland, you know, he met with Joseph Kony, which is a pretty extreme example, but it seems like at this point, given that speaking with Mahmoud Abbas may not actually directly relate to the rockets that are being fired.  Is there any thought of the Secretary-General reaching out directly to Hamas leadership, especially since he flew on this Qatar-funded plane to Doha and could probably set up such a meeting?  What’s your thinking on that?  Thank you.

Deputy Secretary-General:  We have channels, very strong channels, both, of course, to Egypt, which is working very closely with Israel, but also very close contacts with both Turkey and Qatar, who have close relationships to Hamas.  And the Secretary-General has worked extremely intensely with these different actors. And we hope that the combined efforts from Egypt and Turkey and Qatar, and of course, the United States, which has been working very, very hard and very closely with the Secretary-General on the humanitarian ceasefire issue, that these attempts will be successful.  And we hope that both sides will understand that the Secretary-General’s proposals are still on the table.  They are always there.  The Israeli Security Cabinet met yesterday and I made sure that Ambassador [Ron] Prosor was aware of the fact that the [Secretary-General’s] proposal for a humanitarian ceasefire, whether it was for a week or 24 hours or 72 hours, would be there and considered on the table.  But, we are in contact closely with all the other actors.  So, we don’t feel any need to, at this stage, to be in direct contact with Hamas.

Spokesman:  Jonathan?  We need to wrap this up.  Jonathan?

Question:  Hi.  You touched on the power plant, obviously, at the beginning of this press conference, but what are the exact circumstances that you know at this point as to what happened there and why it’s offline?  And, secondly, what did UNRWA know or what did the UN know about the tunnels themselves, the construction of the tunnels?  You mentioned the discovery of rockets, but what about these tunnels and how do you deal with that problem moving forward?

Mr. Ging:  On the power plant, the latest reports from the power plant are that the fuel tanks were hit by missiles.  So, effectively, that has now shut down the power plant…

Question:  But, whose missiles?  Who?  What hit the…

Mr. Ging:  Again, we’re not in a position to say that definitively here.  And, you know, you’ve also asked about why we say one thing about one location, the other… We’re not the investigators, but when you have fragment of shells or you have unexploded shells with markings on them, you can actually call it much easier than in other instances.  We don’t know definitely who hit the power plant, but we do know that the plant was hit, that fuel tanks were hit and the plant is now shut down.  For the UN humanitarian organizations which are working in Gaza, our preoccupation is to deliver humanitarian services and the inviolability of our own installations in terms of their use.  The whole question of tunnels and all of that, that is beyond our scope of work, except to say that any supplies that have come into Gaza for UN use are fully accounted for.  When it comes to things like cement and so forth, there is a rigorous accountability and monitoring mechanism to ensure that if supplies come in for UN projects, they are used exclusively for UN projects.

Question:  Just a quick follow-up:  How does the cement then end up in these tunnels, then?

Mr. Ging:  It’s not the cement that comes in for UN projects.  You probably are aware that for many years there were underground tunnels from Egypt which were bringing in large quantities of different supplies, including cement.  That was all very well-documented in the press and other places.  So, again, there is a big difference between what comes and is under the control of the UN and what is outside of our control.

Spokesman:  Alexandra and Evelyn, and then we have to wrap it up.

Question:  We hear a lot about the information sent to the IDF regarding the location of the UN school and I’m going to play a bit naïve here.  Is the same information sent to the Hamas group, in order for them to stop shooting rockets from school areas?

Mr. Ging:  Yes, absolutely.  In each and every case, all parties to the conflict receive communication from the UN about their responsibilities and to be held accountable to that.  And let’s also be clear:  each party is individually accountable for their own actions in accordance with international standards, not in accordance with the standards of the other party.  That’s the standard.  It is international legal standards that you will be held accountable to.  So, again, very important that we communicate to all that that is in fact the case and that is the measure against which their actions will be accountable.

Spokesman:  Evelyn, and then we will have to wrap it up.

Question:  Thank you.  Secretary Eliasson, is there any indication that Israel would allow any kind of a protection force in Gaza or the West Bank and secondly, what’s next?  Who’s negotiating?  Is it just [ United States] Secretary [of State John] Kerry or someone from the UN working with him to negotiate an unconditional ceasefire, which neither side seems to want?

Deputy Secretary-General:  Well, I’m not the one to speculate on whether Israel would agree to monitors or any protection facility, if needed.  It is a matter of what will be agreed in the end.  What we are asking for at this stage is a very simple thing:  Stop the fighting.  This means stop the bombardments from Israel, but also it means also stop the rockets going [from] Gaza.  Stop also attacks via tunnels into Israel.  And then, by that humanitarian pause, create conditions for people to live normal lives and also allow for a discussion on the more-lasting ceasefire where the more ambitious, the larger elements, the larger perspectives have to be taken in.  I mentioned them earlier — lifting the blockade, having assurances that these attacks from Gaza do not continue.  What I think we should all remember today is to try to put the human being at the centre.  This Organization is about people in the end.  I can’t resist picking up my twelfth Charter in the pocket.  [pulls out United Nations Charter, reads:]  “We, the peoples.”  This is what this is all about.  We have just seen this morning a horrifying example of the price paid.  But, I know people are scared in southern Israel.  I know all over the place that people are absolutely desperate, but when you get that vicious circle of violence, first of all you get increased suffering and secondly, you get hatred and mistrust that is there as a poison in the societies and makes a peaceful future less probable.  So, we hope for the best:  take these two steps.  Stop this horrible fighting and start talking about these major issues.  And then, of course, this goes into the larger issue of Palestinian, future of Palestine and two-State solution, but that is probably stage number three, four.

Spokesman:  Thank you very much.

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For information media. Not an official record.