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UN: Border closures hamper Gaza aid programs

Besides providing food aid to 750,000 Gazans, the U.N. Relief Works Agency runs schools, medical clinics and other programs. The Israeli closures affect all the agency’s activities.

GAZA STRIP: A United Nations flour warehouse in Gaza, full a week ago, now stands empty - the guttural sounds of trucks replaced by the chirping of pigeons in the rafters.

Another warehouse holds just a few crates of lunch meat, while the space usually filled with oil and powdered milk is taken up by air conditioners for medical centers yet to be built.

A week after Israel closed Gaza’s borders in response to rocket fire by Palestinian militants, the U.N. aid agency warned its stocks had run so low it would be forced to halt food distribution to the needy.

Besides providing food aid to 750,000 Gazans, the U.N. Relief Works Agency runs schools, medical clinics and other programs. The Israeli closures affect all the agency’s activities, said UNRWA spokesman Christopher Gunness.

Late Wednesday, Israel’s Defense Ministry said it would allow 30 truckloads of humanitarian supplies into Gaza. Gunness said the shipments would ease some shortages, but that Israeli restrictions have been forcing the U.N. to operate in crisis mode.

“It is not good enough for the U.N. to be pushed to the brink every time,” he said. The crisis is only the latest since Islamic militants from Hamas overran the Gaza Strip last year. Hamas and Israel are bitter enemies. Hamas does not recognize a place for a Jewish state in an Islamic Middle East and has sent dozens of suicide bombers into Israel, which in turn labels Hamas a terror group. To pressure Hamas, Israel imposed a blockade, allowing only minimal humanitarian supplies and an occasional trickle of commercial goods into the territory. All but one of Gaza’s crossings are into Israel. The exception is Rafah, which leads to Egypt,

Gaza City, Thursday, AFP

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