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Brussels, 15 January 2009

Louis Michel "shocked and dismayed" about the Israeli shelling of UN headquarters in Gaza

European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel has expressed his complete "shock and dismay" at the shelling of the United Nations' compound in Gaza earlier today.

Commissioner Michel, on behalf of the European Commission, offered his full support for UNRWA's (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) decision to suspend its operations following the incident.

Commissioner Michel stated, "I am deeply shocked and dismayed to learn of this incident. Since the outbreak of the fighting I have made it very clear that all sides must respect international humanitarian law. It is unacceptable that the UN headquarters in Gaza has been struck by Israeli artillery fire. UNWRA and its personnel must have their security guaranteed to ensure they can carry out their essential work and assistance to the civilian population in Gaza. This is a very serious incident and there must be a full and independent investigation."

The European Commission is the largest donor to UNRWA with an overall annual contribution of €113 million in 2008. This figure does not include the humanitarian assistance provided through ECHO. In 2008, the European Commission provided more than €73 million in humanitarian assistance for victims of the ongoing crisis in the Palestinian Territories of which 56% was for relief activities in the Gaza Strip. In the last month, the Commission has provided more than €10 million in additional humanitarian aid in a direct response to the increasing humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

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