Hamas says order to release UN aid seized by mistake

UN aid agency said it suspended importing goods into Gaza, claming that Hamas had seized supplies.

Hamas says order to release UN aid seized by mistake

Gaza's welfare minister said on Friday that UN supplies were taken by mistake and UN aid agency could come to take the goods. He added that no one came.

The Gazan social affairs minister ordered "the aid to be returned to the agency if it turns out it is indeed its property," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said.

UNWRA said it suspended importing goods into the Gaza Strip and claimed that Hamas had seized supplies.

Hamas denied it confiscated any supplies, saying it was a misunderstanding between drivers due to a lack of coordination.

A Hamas spokesman said two of its members had met the head of UNRWA and were able to "end the crisis", but it was unclear if the agency would return to normal operations.

Ahmed al-Kurd, welfare minister in Gaza's Hamas government, said the supplies were taken by mistake.

"It was a misunderstanding between drivers," Kurd said. "We have told UNRWA they can come ... and take the goods. For some reason, they did not come."

Christopher Gunness, spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which supports much of Gaza's 1.5 million population, said Hamas forces had seized 10 trucks loaded with humanitarian supplies on Friday. Two days earlier, Hamas men took blankets and food from an UNRWA store in Gaza.

"The Hamas government must return all of the aid that's been confiscated ... and we have to be given by the Hamas government credible assurances that this will not happen again," Gunness told Reuters. "If it doesn't happen, then we will continue with the suspension of our imports."

U.N. Secretary-General Bank Ki-moon also pressed Hamas to release the aid shipment and "refrain from interference with the provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance", his spokeswoman said.

Gunness said that the aid agency had supplies in reserve and food distribution would be able to continue for days.

Humanitarian groups have complained that Israel has obstructed the entry of supplies into Gaza, further stifling reconstruction efforts after the Israeli assault into Gaza.

Israel launched on Dec. 27 a massive offensive in Gaza, killing more than 1300 Palestinians, a third of them children, and wounded at least 5300.

Israel targeted hospitals, schools, mosques and government buildings and destroyed infrastructure system in Gaza, lefting Palestinians without electricity, gas and power.

Hamas wants Israel and Egypt to reopen all Gaza's border crossings so that people and goods can move freely. Gaza has been under heavy blockade for most of the time since Hamas took power there in June 2007.

UNRWA extended its aid roster following the 22-day Israeli campaign last month to include employees of the Palestinian Authority, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah faction.

UNRWA was set up in 1948 to provide assistance to Palestinian refugees.

Reuters

Last Mod: 07 Şubat 2009, 11:24
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