Sunday, January 18, 2009

Israeli Deliberately Blocked UN Food Aid from Reaching Gaza - UN

Sydney Morning Herald, Australia, January 18, 2009 - In a scathing critique of Israeli actions leading up to the conflict, the UN's chief humanitarian co-ordinator in Israel, the former Australian diplomat Maxwell Gaylard, accused Israel of failing to honour its commitments to open its border with Gaza during several months of truce from June 19 last year.

"The Israelis would not let us facilitate a regular and sufficient flow of supplies into the Strip," Mr Gaylard said.

The chief spokesman for Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Yigal Palmor, said the claims were "unqualified bullshit".

"At no time was there a shortage of food in Gaza over the past three weeks," Mr Palmor said.

Mr Gaylard, who is the UN Special Co-ordinator's Office's most senior representative in Israel, told the Herald that when Israel launched its surprise attack on Gaza on December 27, the UN's warehouses in Gaza were nearly empty, with all food and equipment sitting in nearby port facilities. "The food was in Israel but we couldn't get it in. This is before. The blockade was very tight." ....

Mr Gaylard, who is also the UN's deputy special co-ordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said it would require several billion dollars and at least five years to repair the physical damage caused by the last three weeks of fighting.

As for the long-term goal of resolving the 60-year Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said that had been dealt a severe setback.

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