US promises $49m in Gaza aid

Pledge for aid to Gaza comes as Secretary of State Kerry embarks on diplomatic push to secure ceasefire in the region.

The conflict, the bloodiest since December 2009 has killed more than 570 Palestinians and 27 Israelis. [EPA]

The United States will provide $47m in humanitarian aid to help Palestinians hit by Israel’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip, Secretary of State John Kerry has said.

The comment comes as Kerry embarks on a diplomatic push on Monday to secure a ceasefire in the region. 

“We are deeply concerned about the consequences of Israel’s appropriate and legitimate effort to defend itself,” Kerry said in Cairo on as he met United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“No country can stand by while rockets are attacking it, and tunnels are dug in order to come into your country and assault your people,” Kerry said.

“But always, in any conflict, there is concern about civilians – about children, women, communities that are caught in it.”

The US will provide $15m to the UNRWA, the Palestinian refugee agency, which will meet part of the organisation’s $60 million appeal for assistance.

The remaining $32m will come from the US Agency for International Development, including $10 million that was already directed towards the Palestinians but will be rechanneled to meet immediate needs, the State Department said.

Soaring number of refugees

Meanwhile, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees has said the number of people seeking refuge at its sites in Gaza to escape a two-week-old Israeli offensive on the enclave has soared to more than 100,000.

“This is a watershed moment for UNRWA, now that the number of people seeking refuge with us is more than double the figure we saw in the 2009 Gaza conflict,” climbing to above 100,000, according to the the agency’s spokesman Christopher Gunness.

UNRWA says it has opened 69 shelters in the war-torn Gaza Strip to cope with the rising numbers of displaced people.

The conflict, the bloodiest since December 2009 to January 2010, has killed more than 570 Palestinians and 27 Israelis, including two civilians.

The death toll and number of displaced has increased rapidly since Israel began a ground offensive late Thursday, after 10 days of aerial and naval bombardment.

Source: AFP