Ban seeks $613 million in emergency aid for Gaza


United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed today to governments for $613 million in emergency aid to Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, including repairs of the territory's infrastructure.

The money we are asking for will provide basic lifesaving aid: food, water, sanitation, health care and shelter, Mr Ban said in Davos, Switzerland, according to a transcript of his remarks.

It will help to remove the debris of war, including unexploded ordnance. It will

finance emergency repairs for basic infrastructure and provide psychological help for the victims.

The appeal is based on the report by a UN assessment team Mr Ban sent to Gaza after his own visit on January 20th. The money is intended to meet the immediate needs of the Palestinians for up to nine months, the UN said.

The Palestinian delegation at the Arab League summit on January 19th asked for as much as $2 billion, including $500 million in emergency medical aid and equipment.

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah pledged $1 billion at the conference while Qatar offered $250 million at a separate Arab meeting in Doha.

Today the Israeli military launched an air strike against Islamic militants in the Gaza Strip, according to an army spokesman.

The most recent violence between Israel and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip began on January 27th, nine days after Israel declared a cease-fire ending its 22-day offensive against Hamas, an Islamic militant group considered to be a terrorist organization by the US and European Union.

The 22-day Israeli offensive, which aimed to halt Palestinian rocket attacks, left more than 1,300 Palestinian dead and another 5,300 injured, according to Palestinian medical officials.

Thirteen Israelis were killed, including nine soldiers and four civilians hit by Palestinian rockets. Mr Ban told reporters today he would also order an “independent investigation†into the bombing of a UN warehouse in Gaza City during the earlier conflict.

He said he is waiting for a promised explanation of the attack by the Israeli government. In Gaza City, Israel's assault left the parliament building in ruins and destroyed homes in neighborhoods such as Zeitoon and Tal el-Hawa and the main shopping area around Omer al- Mukhtar Street.