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UN suspends food aid to Gaza

Article published on the 2008-11-14 Latest update 2008-11-14 15:16 TU

Humanitarian supplies in Israel, stopped at the Kerem Shalom border crossing, 13 November 2008(Photo: Reuters)

Humanitarian supplies in Israel, stopped at the Kerem Shalom border crossing, 13 November 2008
(Photo: Reuters)

Palestinian fighters in Gaza fired rockets into southern Israel Friday as the United Nations suspended its delivery of food aid to half of the area’s 1.5 million people. Israel closed off the territory on 5 November following a surge of violence. More than a week later, the UN Works and Relief Agency says it can no longer deliver food.

"We have no food," said UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness. "Our warehouses are empty."

Israel tightened its blockade on the region in response to Palestinian militants firing home-made rockets into southern Israel, something it usually does in response to such attacks.

Israel had been expected to ease its embargo on Gaza after a six-month truce went into effect on 19 June, but it says that attacks have made this impossible.

Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, said it would continue to respond to what it called Israeli violations of the truce.

On Friday Hamas fired several rockets at Ashkelon and Sderot in southern Israel, injuring a woman in Sderot.

An Israeli air strike wounded two fighters in Gaza, according to medics and witnesses.

Palestinian rights activists have denounced Israel’s cutting off Gaza as collective punishment.

Jessica Montell of the Jerusalem-based rights group B'Tselem, says that food and aid distribution are protected under international law.

“Under those rules you are not allowed to impose measures on an entire population in order to pressure them to change their government or pressure their government to change its policies,” she told RFI. “In that sense, the collective punishment label could be appropriate.”

Comment: Jessica Montell, B'Tselem, Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

14/11/2008 by Salil Sarkar

Israel effectively shut down Gaza’s only power plant Thursday when it cut off fuel supplies funded by the European Union.

The EU, urging both sides to exercise restraint, said that international law requires that civilians receive essential services.

"I call on Israel to reopen the crossings for humanitarian and commercial flows, in particular food and medicines," said EU Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner on Friday.

Montell says that Israel has a responsibility to provide food and essential supplies to Gaza, because it maintains control over the territory, though it does have a right to ensure its safety and security.

“If that requires checking all goods that come in and out, all of those sorts of measures would be legal and legitimate,” she said. “But certainly not preventing an entire economy from maintaining itself, people from earning money to feed their families, preventing even the passage of fuel needed for electricity for this population.”