16th August 2014
The Venezuelan government has released images of the “Hugo Chavez” shelter where incoming Palestinian child refugees of the Israeli assault of the Gaza strip will be housed.
(A full image set of the shelter can be viewed on VA.com here).
President Nicolas Maduro made the pledge last month to shelter Palestinian children who were orphaned and wounded as a result of the conflict, which has claimed the lives of around 2,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, as well as 64 Israeli soldiers and 3 civilians in Israel. Schools, hospitals and other key infrastructure in Gaza have also been destroyed in Israel’s bombardment and ground assault.
Maduro’s promise was made as part of the Venezuelan government’s wider solidarity effort with Palestine, which has included sending several tons of humanitarian aid to Gaza, pledging reconstruction aid, and applying diplomatic pressure with other South American governments for a lasting ceasefire and negotiations leading to a “free Palestine”.
On Tuesday Venezuelan foreign minister Elias Jaua announced that the shelter, volunteers and medical staff were ready to welcome the Palestinian child refugees, and that the necessary legal protocols with the UNICEF and the national child protection body had been fulfilled. The government now awaits the final green light from Palestinian authorities to be able to bring the children to Venezuela.
The images of the shelter released yesterday showed the government minister of Aragua state (centre – north), Tareck El Aissami, where the shelter is located, giving a tour of the house to the Palestinian representative in Venezuela, Riad Al-Maliki.
The plan is to give the children a happy and recreational environment
According to Venezuelan authorities, the plan is to give the children a happy and recreational environment, and any necessary medical attention, until it is safe for them to return to Palestine.
Venezuela has been a supporter of Palestine since the presidency of Hugo Chavez (1999 – 2013). Chavez broke off diplomatic relations with Israel in 2009 in reaction to the “Cast Lead” assault on the Gaza strip that year, in which just over 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis died. He then built up a close solidarity alliance with the Palestinian authority, signing various agreements.
There is not a consensus over the issue of Palestine across the political divide in Venezuela. In 2012, Antonio Ledezma, a leading representative of the opposition MUD coalition, travelled to Israel and met with prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. On that occasion, Ledezma promised that if the opposition were to return to power then relations would be restored with Israel, and referred to the current government’s stance over Israel as “irrational” and “strange”.
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