UN aid official visits badly-hit areas in Gaza

A top U.N. aid official touring rubble-strewn areas of Gaza hit by air strikes during fighting between Israel and Hamas, has appealed to both sides to observe a ceasefire to allow aid teams to assess the damage.

On Saturday (May 22) Lynn Hastings, the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for the Palestinian territories, toured the areas hit during the 11 days of fighting.

She spoke to survivors on heavily damaged Wehda Street, where Palestinian health officials said 42 people had been killed, including 22 members of one family.

The Israeli military said its aircraft had targeted a tunnel system used by Hamas, the Islamist group that runs Gaza, and that this caused buildings above it to collapse.

Standing by the rubble of residential buildings, Hastings said she had seen more than just damaged infrastructure.

"This was a building where I just met the father and the daughter of a family of seven, all the other five members of the family have died, they were all civilians, so you can see it is not just about infrastructure damage, but it is about the loss of entire families. I have been speaking to the families here, and what they've all said is, they have no hope, they feel that they have no control of their lives, and their situation is, one woman said, helpless."

U.S. President Joe Biden has said Washington will work with U.N. agencies on expediting humanitarian aid for Gaza, quote, "in a manner that does not permit Hamas to simply restock its military arsenal."

Hastings said suitable mechanisms, including the "Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism", were already in place and had been active since a war in 2014.

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