UN suspends aid to Gaza, cites fuel shortages
UNRWA officials outraged at lack of supplies, warn humanitarian situation in Gaza may deteriorate into dire crisis due to closing of border crossings. Israeli officials: A million liters of fuel stored on Palestinian side remain unused
The UN stopped distributing aid to Gaza on Thursday after running out of fuel as the Nahal Oz terminal, which supplies the Strip with commodities remained shut due to the terror attacks on Nahal Oz and Kerem Shalom crossing, during which five Israelis were killed.
"We have just stopped the distribution of all food aid to 650,000 Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip because of the lack of fuel in our storage in Gaza," said Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) office in Gaza.
"We also stopped transporting students and officials in the Gaza Strip," he said. "Not a liter of fuel came from Israel," he added.
Sources say there is some fuel stored in Gaza , but a local strike by distributors means it is not reaching the public. In addition, Palestinian distributors have been refusing to pick up about a million liters that Israel pumped earlier this month into the Palestinian side of the fuel depot, saying the quantity is insufficient.
UNRWA said the stored fuel was not destined for UN agencies in Gaza, which buy their own supplies but also have to import them through Nahal Oz. According to foreign press sources, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Arye Mekel told the UN that "they should take it up with Hamas and demand they get fuel from the million liters stored on the Palestinian side of the border."
"We did try today to transfer fuel directly to UNRWA but a farmers' demonstration supported by Hamas prevented us from doing so," he was reported saying. "Hamas has prevented the use of this fuel stocked for humanitarian purposes such as ambulances, generators, hospitals and water pumps, and is creating an artificial and dishonest crisis."
John Ging, who heads the UNRWA offices in Gaza, said Israel had promised to supply the United Nations with petrol. "It is unacceptable that the UN should find itself having to consider suspending its humanitarian operations simply for a lack of fuel for its vehicles," EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Louis Michel said in a statement.
"It is also unacceptable that public services such as garbage collection, sewage treatment or hospitals are at the brink of collapse for the same reason," Michel added.
Robert Serry, the UN's special envoy to the Middle East peace process, urged Palestinian militants to stop attacking border crossings and called on Israel to lift its blockade.
The situation in Gaza was highlighted on Wednesday at a UN Security Council session in New York that saw Western ambassadors walk out in protest after the Libyan delegate compared conditions in the strip to those in Nazi death camps.