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Israel prevents UN from Gaza food distribution
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Israel fails to allow emergency supplies into besieged Palestinian territory after promising to ease blockade

GAZA CITY - The United Nations will suspend its food distribution to half of Gaza's 1.5 million people on Thursday after Israel failed to allow emergency supplies into the Palestinian territory, a spokesman said.

Israel initially said it would allow 30 trucks to deliver supplies to Gaza on Thursday after it completely sealed off the Gaza Strip on November 5.

"They have told us the crossings are closed today. At the end of today we will suspend our food distribution," said UN Relief and Works Agency spokesman Chris Gunness.

"Our warehouses are effectively empty," he said.

UNRWA usually distributes emergency food rations to about 750,000 people in the impoverished, overcrowded sliver of land whose economy has been crippled by a tight Israeli blockade Israel.

The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) said a truck it sent to the Kerem Shalom crossing was turned back.

"Pushing people to the brink of desperation every few months and forcing UNRWA into yet another cycle of crisis management is not in the interest of anyone who believes in peace, moderation and stability," said Gunness.

ICRC mission chief Katharina Ritz said that "every day the situation is getting more and more precarious for Gazans," adding that there was a desperate need for medical supplies.

The Israeli military confirmed the closure of Gaza continued on Thursday.

"The crossings will remain closed today for security reasons," defence ministry spokesman Peter Lerner said.

Israel had been expected to significantly ease its embargo after a six-month truce went into effect on June 19.

Both sides accuse each other of violating the truce, that is scheduled to expire on December 19.

Besides providing food aid to 750,000 Gazans, the UN Relief Works Agency runs schools, medical clinics and other programs.

More than half of Gaza residents are refugees.

The Israeli blockade has plunged the crowded territory into poverty, while keeping construction materials out and Gazans locked in. About 80 percent of Gaza's 1.4 million residents depend on food aid, according to UN figures.

The UN distributes food aid to Gazans in cycles. Families are categorized by size and each group has a window every two or three months when it can pick up its food.

When the UN is forced to stop distribution, the tens of thousands of people eligible to get their food during that period will get nothing, said UN officials. This will delay the cycle, meaning that all food recipients will have to wait longer for their next installment.

On Wednesday afternoon, workers in the center in the Shati refugee camp next to Gaza City prepared bags of rice, flour, oil and powered milk for the 250 people they expected to come the next day.

"If there's nothing there it will be a disaster for people here," said Adil Adwalla, 35, a construction worker who lives nearby. He can't find work because the blockade has made building materials scare, he said. That makes the food aid even more important to his wife and six children, he said.

The center had no lunch meat for more than a week and had only enough oil for two days. It would run out of milk the next day, the center's supervisor said. He did not give his name because he is not authorized to speak to reporters.

"With meat, people accept it, but when it's milk, it's much harder. We don't know how to make people understand it's not us," he said. "The crossings are closed but they think it's our fault."

Israel, which wants to crush any Palestinian liberation movement, responded to Hamas's win in the elections with sanctions, and almost completely blockaded the impoverished coastal strip after Hamas seized power in 2007, although a ‘lighter’ siege had already existed before.

Human rights groups slammed Israel’s siege of Gaza, branding it “collective punishment.”

A group of Arab international lawyers and human rights activists had accused Israel on of committing "genocide" through its crippling blockade of the Strip.

Gaza is still considered under Israeli occupation as Israel controls air, sea and land access to the Gaza.

The Rafah crossing with Egypt, Gaza's sole border crossing that bypasses Israel, rarely opens as Egypt is under immense US and Israeli pressure to keep the crossing shut.

Fatah has little administrative say in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and has no power in Arab east Jerusalem, both of which were illegally occupied by Israel in 1967.

Israel also currently occupies the Lebanese Shabaa Farms and the Syrian Golan Heights.

Source > Middle East Online | nov 13

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