[News] Israel stops Gaza aid delivery

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Thu Nov 13 15:53:24 EST 2008


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http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2008/11/20081113143955227206.html

UPDATED ON:
Thursday, November 13, 2008
22:34 Mecca time, 19:34 GMT

Israel stops Gaza aid delivery

The United Nations is to suspend its food distribution effort to the 
Gaza Strip after Israel said it would not allow emergency supplies 
into the Palestinian territory, a UN spokesman has said.

Israel had initially permitted the UN Relief and Works Agency to send 
30 lorries of supplies to Gaza on Thursday but later reversed the 
agreement, citing a barrage of mortar fire by fighters in the enclave.

"They [Israel] have told us the crossings are closed today. At the 
end of today we will suspend our food distribution," Chris Gunnes, a 
spokesman for Unrwa, said on Thursday.

"Our warehouses are effectively empty."

Unrwa usually distributes emergency food rations to about 750,000 
people in the Gaza Strip, half the population of the territory.

"Pushing people to the brink of desperation every few months and 
forcing Unrwa into yet another cycle of crisis management, is not in 
the interest of anyone who believes in peace, moderation 
and  stability," Gunness said.

Lorries turned back

The passage of humanitarian aid into Gaza has repeatedly been stopped 
over the last few days, aid agencies say, marking a turning point on 
Israel's grip on the territory.

The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday 
that Israeli border authorities had turned back its lorries from the 
Kerem Shalom crossing.

Ayman Mohyeldin, Al Jazeera's correspondent, said that a queue of 
lorries had waited at the Kerem Shalom crossing throughout Thursday, 
waiting in vain for the Israeli military's green light.

"It is the second time this year that UN supplies have not reached 
Palestinians," he said from the crossing point.

"And it really highlights what Palestinians say has become their 
routine - not knowing when border crossings will open, not when when 
they can leave, and not knowing if they can get what they need."

Truce under pressure

Gaza, which is controlled by the Palestinian group Hamas, has faced a 
crippling Israeli blockade in recent months.

Israel says the blockade is aimed at improving its security from 
Palestinian rocket fire.

A six-month truce between Israel and Hamas has come under increasing 
strain in the last week, after Israeli forces entered Gaza in a move 
against a tunnel network used  by Palestinian fighters.

At least 11 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in recent 
days, while more than 130 rockets have been fired from Gaza.

"The rockets are a natural response to [Israel's] aggression," Fawzi 
Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, said.

Power cut

In another development, Israel cut off European Union-funded fuel 
supplies to Gaza's only power plant on Thursday.

"It is completely shut down," Qanaan Obeid, an official from the 
Palestinian Energy Authority, said.

Between a quarter and a third of Gaza's power comes from the plant, 
with the remainder the supplied by Egyptian and Israeli national grids.

Katharina Ritz, mission leader for the ICRC, said that "every day the 
situation is getting more and more precarious for Gazans".

She said that medical equipment is in particularly short supply in 
the coastal territory.

Peter Lerner, an Israeli defence ministry spokesman, said that the 
closure of the Gaza crossings came in response to rocket fire.

Reopening the crossings "has been delayed because of the mortar 
shelling that impedes the proper functioning of the crossing points", he said.

The Israeli government first implemented a blockade of the territory 
after fighters loyal to Hamas, which Israel and the US deems a 
terrorist organisation, forced Palestinian Fatah fighters out of Gaza 
in June 2007.

  Source: Al Jazeera and agencies




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