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Middle East

UN suspends aid operations in Gaza

Article published on the 2009-01-08 Latest update 2009-01-09 10:26 TU

A Palestinian man waits for food at the UNRWA headquarters in Gaza.(Photo: Reuters)

A Palestinian man waits for food at the UNRWA headquarters in Gaza.
(Photo: Reuters)

The UN Relief and Works Agency has completely suspended its operations in Gaza after one of their convoys was hit by tank shells.

“We have suspended operations because our staff, installations, convoys – are coming under increasing, and intolerable attacks by the Israeli army,” said Christopher Gunness of UNRWA, speaking from Gaza.

Interview: Christopher Gunness, UNRWA spokesman, Gaza

08/01/2009 by Laura Angela Bagnetto

One person was killed in the attack on a series of trucks which were travelling to the Erez crossing to pick up supplies.

UNRWA said that it is very rare to suspend operations in Gaza, and the last time it suspended food distribution was for an unprecedented three weeks in December 2008, when it was unable to gain access to the territory.

This attack came after Israeli forces bombed a UN school, killing 43 people and injuring almost 150 on Tuesday.

The school was being used as a temporary shelter for those fleeing the fighting, and the UN said it was distinctly labelled with a UN flag and a painted roof, as are more than 200 other UN schools.

UNRWA, which serves two-thirds of the 1.5 million population of Gaza, said that the Israeli military was provided with the GPS co-ordinates for the school and all operations in the territory.

Suspension of food distribution will affect people in an area which has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the world and where 70 per cent of the people live in poverty.

At least three UNRWA employees have been killed since the start of the siege.

The Israeli forces have not commented on the attack.