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UN chief due on Gaza visit to assess damage

GAZA, January 20 (RIA Novosti) – UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon is due to visit the Gaza Strip on Tuesday to inspect the damage following Israel’s three-week offensive on the densely-populated enclave, a UN source said.

The visit, part of a Middle East tour, comes as Israel started pulling out its troops on Sunday from Gaza and a warning by the UN that the cost of rebuilding the Hamas-controlled region could reach billions of dollars with millions more needed to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.

Israel launched its attack on Gaza on December 27, targeting Hamas infrastructure in a bid to put an end to rocket attacks by Palestinian militants on Israeli border towns. The military operation left over 1,300 Palestinians dead, the majority of them civilians. Thirteen Israelis, 10 of them military personnel, lost their lives in the fighting.

According to Israeli media reports, Israel plans to withdraw all of its troops from the Gaza Strip before U.S. President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration later today.