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UN official urges to avoid further extremism in Gaza

Source: Xinhua | 01-24-2009 07:51

Special Report:   Israel airstrikes in Gaza

UNITED NATION, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- There is growing anger in Gaza over the recent Israeli military operation that inflicted death, damage and destruction in the territory, a senior United Nations official said Friday, stressing the need to avoid making more extremists there.

John Ging, the director of operations in Gaza for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), told a news conference here via video-link from Gaza, that ensuring accountability and restoring the local economy are the main ways to make certain the conflict does not create more extremists.

"People are increasingly angry about what has happened here," he said. "That is perfectly understandable. But we want to channel the emotions now into something constructive and positive."

The 22-day offensive, which Israel launched on Dec. 27 with the stated aim of ending Hamas rocket attacks, claimed more than 1,300lives and wounded more than 5,450, in addition to causing widespread damage and destruction.

Ging cautioned that those bent on extremism have been "emboldened" by what has happened because it has generated a high degree of grief, frustration and despair.

He stressed the need to restore the people's confidence that there will be accountability and that they can rely on the rule of law being applied equally, fairly and objectively. "That is a big, big challenge," he said, noting that there is a lot of cynicism on the ground as to whether that will be achieved.

"If we don't then we are defeated by the extremists," he said. "It's as simple as that."

The other priority is to restore people to a dignified existence, and the key there is the crossing points. He said he understood there are political, operational and security challenges to opening up the crossings, "but it is time to put the people's interests before all other and find solutions."

"Ordinary people here have carried the burden for far too long. They've paid a phenomenal price," he said, noting the suffering endured by Gaza's 1.5 million residents as a result of Israel's closure of crossing points into the Gaza Strip.