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India to provide $1 million for aid to Gaza victims

New Delhi: As the Gaza conflict shows no immediate signs of let-up and the number of deaths, including of scores of children, mount to over 1,400, a concerned India is planning to send $1 million to a UN fund to provide aid to the suffering Palestinians fleeing the battle zone.

The $1 million would go towards providing medicines, food, constructing shelters for the Palestinians in Gaza whose land is being bombarded relentlessly in Israeli air and ground attacks, said an official source declining to be named.

"We are planning to send the $ 1 million to provide medicines, food and other aid to the people of Gaza," the official told IANS.

The money would be sent to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees that provides education, health care, social services and emergency aid to the millions of Palestinians refugees living in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, as well as in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

India contributes $1 million towards the UNRWA fund each year. The money is being planned to be expedited in view of the unceasing violence and the mounting suffering of the people of Gaza.

India voted against Israel in the July 24 UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution that sought a probe into Israel's offensive in Gaza and also condemned Tel Aviv's "disproportionate use of force". The India vote caused some consternation in Israel, with which India shares good relations.

There was some censure for India's negative vote for Israel as experts felt that maybe India should have abstained, keeping in mind the good economic relations, especially in defence purchases, New Delhi shares with Tel Aviv.

"India has been always voting for Palestine. We have been doing so for years, and there is no change in that policy of India," said another official source declining to be named.

With regards to Israel, the source said that India continues to maintain good ties with the country and its ties would remain unaffected irrespective of the UN vote. "Our UNHRC vote changes nothing in our ties with Israel.. We will continue as before," the official added.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, giving the perspective on India's ties with Palestine and Israel, said: "We fully support the cause of Palestinians, but we have good relations with Israel."

India joined Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa to vote for a Palestinian-drafted resolution on "Ensuring Respect for International Law in The Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem".

In the 46-member human rights council, 29 countries voted in support of the resolution while 17 nations abstained.

Supporting calls for an immediate ceasefire, India said at the UNHRC that it is "deeply concerned at the steep escalation of violence between Israel and Palestine, particularly heavy airstrikes in Gaza and disproportionate use of force on ground, resulting in tragic loss of civilian lives, especially women and children and heavy damage to property."

A 72-hour cease-fire between Israel and Hamas took effect early Friday in the Gaza Strip, as both sides intensified efforts to find a more permanent solution to the nearly four weeks of fighting. Israel and Hamas both said they would respect the cease-fire but would respond to attacks. Four short humanitarian cease-fires announced earlier have ended in renewed fighting within hours.

While Israel has reported 61 Israeli soldiers and three civilians killed, the Palestinian death toll has exceeded 1,400 since the offensive began July 8. According to reports, 17 Palestinians, including 10 members of one family, were killed in Israeli strikes ahead of the cease-fire.

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