TEL AVIV – A UN school in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday covered up a map showing the whole of the State of Israel as “historic Palestine” ahead of a visit by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Ban gave a press conference at the school run by UNRWA – the UN agency for Palestinian refugees – and pictures reveal the map in the background shrouded in a white sheet.
Pierre Krähenbühl, the UN agency chief who was accompanying Ban on Tuesday, did not immediately comment, the Times of Israel reported.
صورة تظهر قيام “الأونروا” بتغطية خارطة فلسطين التاريخية بمدرسة عقد الأمين العام للأمم المتحدة مؤتمراً له فيها اليوم. pic.twitter.com/tpm1hTHNrT
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However, despite the photo evidence, UNRWA’s spokesperson in Gaza, Adnan abu Hasna, denied the cover-up entirely, saying: “There was no covered up map during Ban’s press conference in Gaza.”
Many Palestinians were angered by the decision to cover up the map. One student in Gaza commented on social media: “How will the world respect us if we don’t even respect the land which is rightfully ours?”
During his visit, Ban condemned Israel and Egypt’s blockade of Gaza, saying it “suffocates its people, stifles its economy, and impedes reconstruction efforts.”
“It’s a collective punishment for which there must be accountability,” the secretary-general said.
Ban added that until “Gaza and the West Bank are united under a single, democratic, and legitimate government, Gaza’s prospects will be limited.”
On Tuesday, Ban met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with the latter imploring the UN chief to use his influence to insist that Hamas return Israeli captives in Gaza and the remains of IDF soldiers killed there.
Ban expressed sympathy for Israel’s security concerns but told Netanyahu that a two-state solution with the Palestinians must be reached soon.
“I encourage you to take the courageous steps necessary to prevent a one-state reality of perpetual conflict,” Ban said. “No solutions to the conflict will be possible without the recognition that both Palestinians and Jews have undeniable historic and religious connection to this land. No solutions can come through violence. It must be based on mutual respect and recognition of the legitimate aspirations of both peoples.”
The secretary-general supported Israel’s policy of direct negotiations with the Palestinians as being the only way to resolve the conflict, but added that the international community was there to assist and that he would work on a solution until his last day in office.
“No solutions can be imposed on the outside. It must be based on direct talks,” he said.