Tuesday, February 10, 2009

UN Lifts Suspension of Aid After Hamas Returns Stolen Items; Criticizes Israel's Ban on Basic Items

UN News Center, February 10, 2009 - February 2009 – The main United Nations relief agency responsible for feeding 900,000 Palestinian refugees in Gaza today lifted its suspension of aid imports after Hamas returned all the aid it had stolen last week.

But the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) warned that its distribution operation continued to be jeopardized by Israel’s refusal to let in materials for plastic bags, more than three weeks after the end of the devastating offensive it launched with the stated aim of halting Hamas and other rocket attacks against it.

UNRWA Director of Operations in Gaza John Ging said Hamas had returned all the aid stolen on two occasions last week, including 300 tons of food, and assured the Agency that there would not be a reoccurrence, a condition UNRWA had demanded to resume its import operations.

“Our confidence in those assurances is based on the return itself and the realization, I believe, among the leadership of Hamas that this is not acceptable to the people here in Gaza,” he told a news conference in New York by video-link from ground zero.

“We had extremely strong support from the community here who demand respect for UNRWA on the ground and have no tolerance for any theft from our resources or aid,” he said, adding that imports would resume on Wednesday since all crossings will be closed tomorrow due to Israel’s general elections.

Mr. Ging, who denied Hamas claims that some UNRWA aid was being given to Hamas rivals Fatah, voiced frustration at the limited access Israel is granting at the crossing points into Gaza, including the ban on the import of bulk plastic needed to package the food aid.

“We ran out of plastic today for the plastic bags to distribute the food so we had to go to the local market here; it’s of course an unreliable market and it’s also a very expensive market but we have to somehow keep going until sense prevails and they allow us to bring in the plastic pellets to make the plastic bags,” he said.

“We have 900,000 people queuing up for food at UNRWA, and we’re only getting through them at 30,000 a day because that’s all the food we can get in,” he added. “The plight of the people is extremely bad, as we should all know by now. We’re struggling to get in the quantities that are needed, and failing I might add.”

He voiced particular exasperation at the ban on importing paper which UNRWA needs for printing school text books and a new curriculum on human rights, calling it shameful, appealing for common sense to prevail, and stressing that the new rights programme would instill in the young how wrong it is to fire rockets....

No comments: