Updated Feb 8, 2009 0:49
Yaakov Katz , The Jerusalem Post
UNRWA informed the IDF on Friday it is suspending humanitarian aid deliveries to the Gaza Strip after Hamas stole supplies it had transferred to the Palestinian territory.
The seizure of 200 tons of supplies, included flour and other staples, took place on Thursday night. In response, UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency) officials informed the IDF’s Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration that it was suspending the deliveries until further notice.
The transfer of 40 truckloads of humanitarian supplies – some 800 tons – planned for Sunday has already been canceled.
Officials in Jerusalem said the announcement by UNRWA constituted UN agreement with Israel’s position that Hamas was using the Palestinian population in Gaza “cruelly and cynically” and was solely responsible for the hardships there.
Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog, who was appointed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the end of Operation Cast Lead to coordinate Israel’s humanitarian efforts in Gaza, said that theft of humanitarian aid exposed the true face of Hamas and of its supporters in Iran.
It was the second time this past week that Hamas stole UN supplies meant for impoverished Gazans.
The first incident took place on Tuesday evening, when armed Hamas police broke into a Gaza warehouse packed with UN humanitarian supplies and seized thousands of blankets and food packages.
The seizure took place after UNRWA staff earlier refused to hand over the supplies to the Hamas-run Social Affairs Ministry.
“We received a phone call this morning from UNRWA officials that they have decided to suspend their deliveries after Hamas stole supplies from one of the organization’s warehouses in the Gaza Strip,” explained a senior official.
The official said the IDF noticed the trend during Operation Cast Lead last month when, despite the fighting, Israel transferred close to 80 trucks a day to the Strip.
Nuaf Atar, a Fatah operative captured during the operation, told the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) that Hamas government officials “took over” humanitarian aid Israel allowed in and sold it when it was supposed to be distributed for free.
UNRWA spokesman Sami Mshasha confirmed that the organization had suspended its deliveries to Gaza after Hamas stole its supplies.
“This is the second incident this week and this is a point of great concern for us and sets a bad precedent. If we are to provide services to people in Gaza after such an ordeal, we need assurances that our work will be unimpeded,” Mshasha said. “We cannot subjugate our work to the Social Affairs Ministry in Gaza.”