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Gaza siege must end

Thursday 29 May 2008, by Archbishop Tutu

Senior Hamas leader and former Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniya (L) and Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu give a press conference in Gaza City. (AFP/Mahmud Hams) Gaza – Ma’an - Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, speaking in Gaza on Wednesday, said that what he has seen in the Gaza Strip is beyond human comprehension, and that "the siege on the Gaza Strip is illegal and must end immediately."

Tutu is heading a high-level UN Fact-Finding Mission to investigate a massacre committed by the Israeli military in November 2006 in the town of Beit Hanoun, in which 19 Palestinian civilians were killed.

As a part of his investigation, Tutu held a meeting with the mayor of Beit Hanoun, Muhammad Kafarna.

The mayor of Beit Hanoun welcomed the committee and updated them on the situation in the town, which he said is one of the Palestinian cities most attacked by the Israeli military. Beit Hanoun is located at the northern end of the Gaza Strip.

Kafarna various troubles the city witnessed at the hands of Israeli forces including the destruction of agricultural land and house demolition. He explained that 3.5% of 42,000 residents of Beit Hanoun have been physically disabled by the Israeli attacks.

The mayor went on to say that no comparison could be made between the Israeli artillery and air strikes and Palestinian resistance’s reaction to those attacks. He highlighted that Israeli forces used internationally banned weapons, F16 fighter jets and heavy artillery in its attacks on the Gaza Strip. He also refuted the Israeli claims that the 2006 massacre was a result of a technical fault.

He said, "We might agree that one shell missed the target, yet we are talking about a large number of shells hitting one single house each five minutes, which could never be a technical mistake."

The mayor also described the losses in Beit Hanoun as being beyond compensation. He said Israel’s blockade of Gaza Strip is "slowly killing" the Strip’s million and a half residents.

Israel denied Tutu’s fact finding commission entry to the Gaza Strip several, forcing Tutu to use the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

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