ANTHONY BROOKS, host:
This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Anthony Brooks.
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
And I'm Madeleine Brand.
With Gaza sliding into chaos as a backdrop, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met today with President Bush in Washington. The two reaffirmed their support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who's holed up in the West Bank, as his political opponents in Hamas solidify their control of Gaza. The U.S. is sending millions of dollars in aid to Abbas in an effort to shore up his leadership of the Palestinians.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: Our hope is that President Abbas and the Prime Minister Fayyad - he's a good fella - will be strengthened to the point where they can lead the Palestinians in a different direction.
BRAND: Meanwhile, in Gaza hundreds of Palestinians are massing at the border, trying to get out and into the West Bank. Israel has closed the border, saying terrorists could sneak into Israel. Joining us is John Ging. He's the director of the U.N.'s refugee agency in Gaza.
And Mr. Ging, what's the scene there like at the border today?
Mr. JOHN GING (U.N.): Well, the scene is a rather pathetic scene when you have between 250 and 300 people desperately trying to get out of Gaza but denied the opportunity to do that, and then refusing to return back to Gaza. They are essentially stuck in a small area right up against the border and the conditions in which they're living are very desperate.
BRAND: And what are they afraid of?
Mr. GING: Well, they claim that they have no confidence that they're safe anymore living here in the Gaza Strip. And they essentially want to go to the West Bank.
BRAND: Well, they think that because they are members of Fatah that Hamas will seek revenge?
Mr. GING: That's what they claim. Yeah.
BRAND: And I've read today, in a couple of newspaper articles, that guns are quite plentiful in Gaza now. They're being snuck through tunnels from Egypt.
Mr. GING: There's always been the claim that tunnels have been used to bring weapons into Gaza. There is definitely a proliferation of weapons here. That's been part of the problem. Now the Hamas people are doing a disarmament campaign, where they're going around disarming people. They've given them certain deadlines to hand in their weapons and they've also begun house-to-house searches in certain areas where they're literally disarming the people who have weapons.
BRAND: Disarming everyone or disarming members of Fatah?
Mr. GING: Well, they claim to be disarming everybody.
BRAND: Tell us about the humanitarian needs there. Gazans, I understand, depend entirely on the outside for their basic needs: food, groceries, etc. And with the West deciding to pump money into the West Bank and to Mahmoud Abbas, what will that mean for daily life there in Gaza?
Mr. GING: Again, you're correct in saying that this is a need-dependent society here. There's about 1.4 million people living in the Gaza Strip. Over 1.1 million of them rely on U.N. handouts of food. We have 860,000 refugees that are receiving food assistance from us. And then the World Food Program take care of the non-refugees. Another 250,000.
So those people, if they don't get food assistance from us, they have no food. The economy here collapsed quite some time ago under the ways of an economic blockade with the election of Hamas last year. Public sector, public services are in ruin. And that was not lifted when we had a brief period of a national unity government. So Gaza has been living under heavy sanction - economic sanction - and has become a rather desperate place for people to subsist for quite some time. If it continues, then the misery here will simply continue.
BRAND: John Ging of the United Nations speaking to us from Gaza. Thank you.
Mr. GING: Thank you.
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