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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom

Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace

UNRWA’s Gaza Director Briefs Congress on Humanitarian Crisis

Americans for Peace Now

March 30, 2009

Jewish, Arab American and religious based groups urge U.S. action

Washington, D.C – The Director of the United Nation's Relief and Works Agency's Gaza operation will brief Members of Congress and their staffs on the humanitarian crisis this Tuesday. A coalition of Jewish, Arab American and religious based organizations applauds both UNRWA's work to meet the needs of the civilian population in Gaza and the continuing efforts of Representatives Brian Baird and Keith Ellison to address the urgent humanitarian situation.

John Ging, who heads the largest relief organization in Gaza, will discuss the critical humanitarian challenges facing Gaza in the aftermath of Israel's recent military operations at a briefing on Tuesday, March 31st at 4:00PM, sponsored by Baird and Ellison. UNRWA's humanitarian work plays a critical role as the United States seeks to reengage in peacemaking efforts in the region and, as such, the new administration has pledged $300 million to support reconstruction efforts in Gaza.

The ad-hoc coalition, which includes Americans for Peace Now, American Task Force on Palestine, Arab American Institute, Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, B'tselem, Churches for Middle East Peace, Israel Policy Forum and J- Street, encourages Congress to take immediate action in fulfilling this pledge. The aid will fund the emergency provision of food, medical care and other social services and is integral to improving regional stability and security and, thus, bolstering the Obama administration's chances of success in working to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As President Obama said in January following the Gaza hostilities, "just as the terror of rocket fire aimed at innocent Israelis is intolerable, so, too, is a future without hope for the Palestinians".

In her remarks at the international donors' conference on reconstructing the Gaza Strip in early March, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged that U.S. monetary support for Gaza cannot be separated from achieving a "comprehensive peace" in the region.

Currently, some 65 percent of Gaza's nearly 1.5 million residents live below the poverty line and were dependent on food assistance even before the invasion. Unemployment tops 40 percent and by Israel's own estimates 5,000 houses were destroyed during its military offensive. Significant resources are urgently needed to alleviate this situation and the Israeli government has spoken approvingly about UNRWA's work. Gershon Kedar, Israel's delegate to the Fourth Committee of the UNGA, stated that Israel views "UNRWA's programs on human rights, conflict resolution and tolerance positively".

UNRWA is a relief and human development agency, providing education, healthcare, social services and emergency aid to over 4.6 million refugees living in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic.

WHO: UNRWA Director of Gaza Operations John Ging

WHAT: Briefing for Members and Hill staff on the urgent humanitarian challenges facing Gaza

WHEN: Tuesday, March 31; 4:00PM to 5:00PM

WHERE: Rayburn House Office Building, Room B-318

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