Friday, February 06, 2009 
19:59  Mecca time, 16:59  GMT     
News Middle East  
UN halts Gaza aid over 'thefts'   
The Gaza Strip's 1.5 million people rely 
on aid to survive [File: AFP]    A
major UN relief agency has stopped importing aid into the Gaza Strip,
after its supplies were allegedly stolen for a second time this week.
The UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa) said that 10 lorries loaded
with humanitarian supplies were seized by Hamas members on Friday. "Unrwa
has suspended all imports of aid into the Gaza Strip following the
confiscation of hundreds of tonnes of food aid," a statement from the
Unrwa said.
"Unrwa's suspension of imports will remain in effect until the aid
is returned and the agency is given credible assurances from the Hamas
government in Gaza that there will be no repeat of these thefts."
It was the second seizure of Unrwa supplies this week.
Its officials said that Hamas members had seized 3,500 blankets and 400 food 
parcels at gunpoint from an Unrwa store on Tuesday.
Hamas admission
Ahmed al-Kurd, Hamas' social affairs minister, implicitly admitted
that Tuesday's shipment was seized, saying that the aid should be more
widely distributed to Gaza's 1.5 million population.
Unrwa only provides assistance to those holding refugee status.
Gaza is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. A stiffling
economic blockade imposed by Israel for the past 18 months has crippled
its economy and caused severe food and medicine shortages.
Israel's 22-day long assault on the Palestinian territory has
worsened the situation further, forcing many Palestinians to live on
 Source: Agencies   
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