Retired international soccer star Zinedine Zidane will be paying a visit to the Gaza Strip as part of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) efforts to promote peace between Palestinians and Israelis.
The three-time FIFA Footballer of the Year is scheduled to travel to the blockaded enclave in March 2010 as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, the Palestinian Information Center reported on Tuesday.
“I’m thrilled to be appointed by the UN children’s organization as an envoy to tour Gaza Strip. I will make every effort to give Gaza residents great big smiles on their faces. Gazans have suffered serious losses, damage, and injuries due to Israeli acts of violence,” Zidane stated.
Israel imposed a crippling siege on the Gaza Strip in 2007 after the Hamas movement took full control of the territory after pushing out Fatah security forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas, the acting Palestinian Authority chief.
The Israeli army launched a massive military offensive, known as Operation Cast Lead, against the coastal strip from December 2008 to January 2009. Over 1,400 Palestinians were killed during the three-week offensive, which inflicted $1.6 billion of damage on the Gaza economy.