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UN awaits return of Gaza aid, Hamas says ‘crisis over’
7 February 2009
GAZA CITY - The UN was on Saturday awaiting the promised return of hundreds of
tonnes of food aid for Gaza which was 'mistakenly' seized by Hamas, as the
Islamist movement insisted the crisis is over.
But UNRWA, the main agency for Palestinian refugees, insisted the incident will
not be considered “over” until all 200 tonnes of rice and flour have been
returned and Hamas has guaranteed such a situation will not be repeated.
In the wake of the incident, the UN agency suspended all imports of aid into
At a meeting late on Friday, Gaza’s health minister Bassem Naim assured UNWRA
chief Karen Abu Zayd that such a situation would not occur again, Hamas
spokesman Taher al-Nunu told AFP on Saturday.
“He promised there would not be any more incidents like that,” Nunu said.
“The crisis is over.”
Despite Naim’s assurances, UNRWA said the aid had still not been returned by
Saturday afternoon, although the agency “had been told it would receive all the
goods later in the day,” a Gaza-based spokesman told AFP.
The foodstuffs, which were loaded onto 10 lorries, were seized on Thursday from
the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom crossing in south Gaza in the second
such incident within three days—prompting a sharp rebuke from UN chief Ban
Hamas promptly said it would return the goods, saying the incident had been “a
mistake” caused by confusion at the border crossing.
It was the second time an UNRWA aid shipment had been seized in Gaza, prompting
the UN chief to wrap Hamas over the knuckles for interferring with the
distribution of humanitarian aid.
“The Secretary General demands that Hamas immediately release the UNRWA
consignment of humanitarian goods it seized today, in the second such incident
this week,” Ban’s spokeswoman Michele Montas said on Friday.
Ban said Hamas must “refrain from interference with the provision and
distribution of humanitarian assistance in Gaza.”
Hamas social affairs minister Ahmed al-Kurd ordered any supplies belonging to
UNRWA to be returned, while insisting the incident was caused by confusion.
“The aid supplies were loaded onto trucks by mistake as no government
representative was present. The drivers did not know which supplies were
UNRWA’s and which were the government’s,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum told AFP.
On Tuesday, UNRWA said 3,500 blankets and more than 400 food parcels had been
seized at gunpoint from a distribution store in a Gaza City refugee camp.
UNRWA plays a key role in distributing aid in Gaza, and is currently trying to
deliver food assistance to some 900,000 people out of a population of 1.5
Aid deliveries are particularly pressing at the moment as the population
struggles to cope with the consequences of Israel’s crushing military assault
on the coastal enclave which left more than 1,300 dead and razed over 14,000
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