Israel Bans Gaza Toilet Papers, Soap

European and American officials are protesting its blocking of humanitarian aid, including harmless goods such as cheeses, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and toilet papers, from the sealed off Gaza Strip.

"We’re certainly asking the Israelis questions about this," a US official told Reuters on Wednesday, March 11.

Aid groups complain of Israel’s restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian aid, even harmless goods such as soap and toilet papers, into Gaza.

In one case, Israel blocked for weeks a World Food Program (WFP) shipment of chickpeas, used to make the Palestinian food staple hummus.

Western officials also cite Israeli restrictions on imports of certain types of cheeses, toothbrushes and toothpaste.

"The Americans and international NGOs are raising their concerns," a Western official told Reuters.

"We’re protesting."

This is not the first time Israel blocks the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza, home to 1.6 million Palestinians.

When Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate’s powerful Foreign Relations Committee, visited Gaza last month, he learned that many trucks loaded with pasta were not permitted in.

When he asked, Kerry was told by aid officials that Israel does not define pasta as part of humanitarian aid.

The shipment was only allowed in after Senator Kerry personally interfered with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.


Western diplomats blasted the Israeli decision-making over the besieged, overcrowded Gaza Strip.

"It is totally surreal," one European diplomat told Reuters.

"One day we had 600 kg (1,300 pounds) of pasta at the Kerem Shalom crossing but they said, ‘Today, pasta can’t go in’."

Another Western diplomat echoed the same complaint.

"It’s ever-changing," he said.

"One week jam is okay and the next week it’s not."

Israel has clamped a blockade on the Gaza Strip since Hamas was voted to power in 2006.

It further tightened the blockade and closed Gaza’s crossings to the outside world after Hamas assumed control in 2007.

The humanitarian catastrophe created by the long-running Israeli siege further aggravated after Israel’s recent three-week war which killed more than 1,300 people, mostly civilians, and wounded 5,450.

The onslaught, the deadliest ever against Gaza, wrecked havoc on the infrastructure, leaving nearly 20,000 homes and thousands of other buildings damaged.

( and Agencies)

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