A Palestinian man holds bags of rice before their
distribution to Palestinians at a United Nations food
distribution center in Sha’ati refugee camp in Gaza City
UNRWA informed Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Friday that it is suspending its humanitarian aid deliveries to the Gaza Strip after Hamas stole supplies the United Nations organization had transferred to the Palestinian territory.
The seizure of the 200 tons of supplies took place Thursday night and in response, UNRWA officials informed the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration that it was suspending its deliveries to the Gaza Strip until further notice. The supplies confiscated included flour and other basic commodities.
The transfer of 40 truckloads of humanitarian supplies – some 800 tons – planned for Sunday has already been canceled.
Officials in Jerusalem said the announcement by UNRWA constituted a UN approval and confirmation of Israel’s position, that Hamas is using the Palestinian population in gaza “cruelly and cynically” and is solely responsible for hardship there.
Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog, who was appointed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the end of Operation Cast Lead to coordinate Israel’s humanitarian effort in Gaza, told Israel Radio that theft of humanitarian aid exposes the true face of Hamas and of its supporters in Iran.
It was the second time this week that Hamas stole UN supplies transferred to the Gaza Strip for impoverished Palestinians.
The first incident took place Tuesday evening when armed Hamas police broke into a Gaza warehouse packed with UN humanitarian supplies and seized thousands of blankets and food packages.
The seizure took place after UNRWA staff earlier refused to hand over the aid supplies to the Hamas-run Ministry of Social Affairs.
“We received a phone call this morning from UNRWA officials that they have decided to suspend their deliveries after Hamas stole supplies from one of the organization’s warehouses in the Gaza Strip,” explained a senior official.
The official said that the IDF noticed the trend already during Operation Cast Lead last month, when despite the fighting, Israel transferred close to 80 trucks a day to the Strip.
Nuaf Atar, a Fatah operative captured during the operation, told the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) that Hamas government officials “took over” humanitarian aid Israel allowed in to the Gaza Strip and sold it when it was supposed to be distributed for free.
UNRWA Spokesman Sami Mshasha confirmed that the organization had suspended its deliveries to Gaza after Hamas stole its supplies.
“This is the second incident this week and this is a point of great concern for us and sets a bad precedent and if we are to provide services to people in Gaza after such an ordeal we need assurances that our work will be unimpeded,” Mshasha said. “We cannot subjugate our work to the Ministry of Social Affairs in Gaza.”
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