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Israel reallows UN aid deliveries to Gaza Strip

Video by Sonia DRIDI , Aurore Cloé DUPUIS

Text by REUTERS

Latest update : 2008-11-14

Israel will allow 30 truckloads of emergency supplies into Gaza following UN warnings that a border blockade was jeopardizing food deliveries. Israel closed the crossing Nov. 5, citing cross-border attacks launched from the Hamas-run territory.

Basic supplies were to be sent into Gaza on Thursday following UN warnings that food deliveries to 750,000 people would be suspended unless Israel eases its total closure of the impoverished territory.

Israel, which sealed off the Hamas-run Gaza Strip on November 5 following a flare-up in violence, has announced that 30 truckloads of emergency food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies would be allowed into the besieged coastal strip on Thursday.

It was not immediately clear when the supplies, sent by UN agencies and the International Committee of the Red Cross, would be allowed through as mortar fire continued on Thursday morning, an Israeli military spokesman said.

"For now the trucks have not gone through, the operation has been delayed because of the mortar shelling that impedes the proper functioning of the crossing points," Peter Lerner told AFP.

Gaza militants have fired a dozen mortar rounds at southern Israel since Wednesday evening, following a day of violence that left four gunmen dead and rocked a five-month-old truce.

The Israeli government generally responds to Gaza attacks by closing crossing points, cutting off the already limited fuel and humanitarian supplies it allows into the territory under a blockade it imposed after Hamas seized power there in June last year.

The UN Relief and Works Agency warned earlier this week it would have to suspend its food distribution to 750,000 people -- half of Gaza's population -- from Thursday evening if supplies aren't allowed through.

The agency welcomed the decision to allow trucks in on Thursday, but said this fell far short of the need for consistent deliveries of badly-needed supplies to the impoverished, overcrowded sliver of land.

"We need consistency," said UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness. "We need to get away from this cycle of crisis management."

Israel had been expected to significantly ease its embargo after the six-month truce went into effect on June 19, but argues that sporadic attacks by Gaza militants have made this impossible.

On Wednesday, four Gaza gunmen identified as Hamas members, were killed in an exchange of fire Israel said started after militants tried to place an explosive device near the border fence.

Israel's public radio cited security sources as saying that over the past week, Hamas has been trying to create a new situation by breaking the unwritten agreement that Palestinians should not approach the border fence.

On Wednesday, Gaza militants fired several mortar rounds at southern Israel, while Israel conducted two air strikes over the coastal strip.

A flare-up last week had left seven Palestinians dead and prompted Israel to completely shut down crossing points, depriving Gaza of fuel, food and other basic supplies.

On Tuesday Israel reopened the terminal that handles all fuel supplies to Gaza to allow delivery of diesel to the territory's sole power plant one day after it shuddered to a halt.

Both sides accuse each other of violating the truce, although Israel has indicated it would like to extend it beyond its scheduled expiry on December 19.

"We hope the truce is not over, but we are going through a very delicate period in which we are prepared to confront any situation," deputy defence minister Matan Vilnai told public radio.

He nevertheless said Israel "will continue to act whenever necessary."
 

Date created : 2008-11-14

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