UN Suspends Gaza Food Aid under Border Closure

A United Nations aid agency said on Thursday it ran out of flour and would suspend food deliveries to 750,000 Palestinians in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip after Israel closed border crossings.

"Food distribution for both emergency and regular programs will be suspended…until further notice," the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said in a statement.

Adnan Abu Hasana, Media spokesman of the UNRWA Gaza office, told AlArabiya.net that UNRWA storage in Gaza is completely empty and no trucks have been allowed to cross into Gaza to fill them up.

"The situation here is dire. We have nothing to distribute for 70 percent of Gaza’s population," he said. "Markets in Gaza are at their tether’s end. In a few days we will witness a hunger crisis should Israel keep the borders closed," he explained.

On average, the Agency distributes food to nearly 20,000 refugees per day. UNRWA said wheat supplies scheduled to arrive in the Gaza Strip earlier this month did not enter the coastal territory as planned while Israel blamed the closure on cross-border rocket attacks by Palestinian militants.

A total of 750,000 refugees out of a population of 1.5 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip depend on food assistance from UNRWA.
 
Irregular Border Access Affects Health

Meanwhile, Palestinians in Gaza continue to suffer under the crippling blockade as no humanitarian supplies, fuel and other food commodities are allowed into the Strip.

Psychiatrist Iyad Saraj, who works closely with UNRWA, says that shortage of resources has begun to affect health standards in Gaza as chronic malnutrition affects 15 percent of children who suffer from cognitive dysfunction.

"Stunted growth is a major problem. We see children who are 12 years old yet have the bodies of eight year olds. They suffer from cognitive problems due to nutritional deficiency," Dr. Saraj told AlArabiya.net. "If this siege continues we may very well see many people die of hunger," he added.

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) survey about the effects of Israeli blockade on the economic conditions of Palestinian families found that nearly 86 per cent of households reduced their spending for food, while over 66 per cent of households decreased their expenditures for health care. 
 
Rattled Ceasefire Agreement

The six-month-old ceasefire between Hamas and Israel has been rattled since November 4 by a string of tit-for-tat attacks between the Israeli army and Hamas fighters, who fire dozens of rockets against southern Israel.

Israel’s response is to seal off all its crossings with the Islamists-ruled territory, raising international fears of a humanitarian crisis in the impoverished territory.

Israel has sought to extend the Egyptian-brokered truce. But Hamas Islamists, who seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 after routing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s secular Fatah group, said they do not expect the truce with Israel to be extended.

"There will be no renewal of the calm when the ceasefire is up," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum told AlArabiya.net. "Israel’s ongoing blockade leaves us with no other choice."

(Alarabiya.net and agencies)

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