Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA, said that Gaza's reconstruction needs to be accompanied by "a genuine political process," during a visit to the Palestinian enclave after Israel's devastating strikes.

A drone photo shows an aerial view of the destroyed 14-storey al Shorouk tower that housed local and foreign media outlets as well as shops and apartments in Gaza city, on May 23, 2021.
A drone photo shows an aerial view of the destroyed 14-storey al Shorouk tower that housed local and foreign media outlets as well as shops and apartments in Gaza city, on May 23, 2021. (AA)

A UN official in Gaza has called for a "genuine political process" to avert further bloodshed, after Israeli aggression ravaged the Palestinian enclave.

As thousands of Gazans slowly tried to piece back together their lives, top UN staff visited the territory after an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire on Friday halted 11 days of Israeli bombardment.

On Sunday, in a badly-damaged district of Gaza city, volunteers swept up clouds of dust at the feet of collapsed buildings, while others shovelled debris onto the back of a donkey-drawn cart.

Israeli air strikes on Gaza since May 10 have killed more than 200 Palestinians, rendered thousands homeless and laid waste to buildings and key infrastructure across the blockaded territory.

It was the latest such bombardment to hit the crowded coastal strip of some two million people, after three previous wars with Israel since 2008.

Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA, said the reconstruction needed to go hand in hand with efforts to create "a different political environment".

"We need to have a genuine focus on human development," on proper access to education, jobs and livelihoods, he said.

"But this needs to be accompanied by a genuine political process".

Speaking earlier to a group of journalists, he said "the layers of hardship in Gaza keep getting thicker", because the root causes of the conflict have not been addressed.

READ MORE: Gaza rising from the ashes: The cycle of construction and destruction

'No pause for people to breathe'

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking ahead of an imminent trip to the region, reaffirmed Washington's support for a two-state solution so Israelis and Palestinians can live "with equal measures of security, of peace and dignity".

Israeli strikes on Gaza killed 248 Palestinians, including 66 children, and have wounded over 1,900 people, the Gaza health ministry says.

Rockets from Gaza claimed 12 lives in Israel, including one child and an Arab-Israeli teenager, an Israeli soldier, one Indian, and two Thai nationals, medics say. 

Some 357 people in Israel have been wounded.

Lynn Hastings, of the UN aid agency OCHA, said the intense bombing had devastated people's mental health.

During the last war in 2014, "we had humanitarian pauses, where people were able to get out," she said.

"That really speaks to the amount of trauma that was experienced this time, where there was absolutely no pause for people to breathe.

"The comments that I have heard are not 'I need access to water' – even though there are 800,000 people who don't have access to clean water right now – but about the impacts on their lives overall and how they are ever going to recover from this," she said.

READ MORE: Hamas holds parade in Gaza as UNSC urges adherence to ceasefire

'Here is my home'

Sitting drinking coffee under an olive tree near his destroyed house in Gaza, Abou Yahya was furious. "If I had 50 sons, I would tell them to go and fight Israel," he said.

An Israeli air strike hit his home last week, reducing it to rubble, and he has vowed to sleep on top of the debris.

"My family has asked me to leave it, not to sleep here, but I won't budge," he said. "Here is my home".

Authorities have begun distributing tents and mattresses in Gaza, as the UN said at least 6,000 people had been made homeless by the bombardment.

Lorries bringing much-needed medicine, food and fuel entered Gaza on Friday through the Kerem Shalom crossing after Israel reopened it.

Peace talks have stalled since 2014, including over the status of occupied east Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Israel’s attacks on Gaza follow spiking tensions in occupied Jerusalem during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Israeli police deployed heavy-handed tactics against Palestinian worshippers in and around Al Aqsa Mosque in the last week of the holy month.

Another flashpoint in recent days has been a court case that could end with Palestinian families evicted from occupied East Jerusalem homes in Sheikh Jarrah claimed by Jewish settlers.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem, where Al Aqsa is located, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

It annexed the entire city in 1980 in a move never recognised by the international community.

READ MORE: Rallies across world express solidarity with Palestine

Source: AFP