UN accuses Hamas of seizing aid supplies
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UN officials have accused Hamas of seizing aid supplies meant for Palestinian civilians in Gaza. The UN emergency relief coordinator on Wednesday called for all sides to respect the "neutrality and independence" of aid workers and supplies.
AFP - UN humanitarian chief John Holmes on Wednesday slammed as unacceptable the confiscation of UN aid supplies by Hamas personnel in the Gaza Strip and demanded that the aid be returned immediately.
"The United Nations cannot accept under any circumstances the diversion of aid by a party to a conflict," Holmes said in a statement.
He warned that such actions could jeopardize delivery of aid at a time when the world body and its partners were doing their best to meet the basic humanitarian needs of Gaza's 1.5 million people still reeling from a recent Israeli military onslaught.
More than 1,330 Palestinians were killed, more than 5,400 wounded while about 4,000 homes were destroyed and tens of thousands more were damaged during the 22-day offensive which Israel launched on December 27 to stop rocket firing by Gaza-based militants.
"To ensure the access of civilians in Gaza to life-saving assistance and the sustained delivery of aid and essential reconstruction supplies, I call on all parties to respect the neutrality and independence of aid workers, supplies and facilities," said Holmes, the UN emergency relief coordinator.
Earlier Wednesday, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said Hamas had seized hundreds of food parcels and thousands of blankets destined for Gaza civilians in the wake of Israel's war.
The Hamas government's social affairs minister Ahmed al-Kurd implicitly confirmed the aid was seized, arguing that it should be distributed to a wider section of the Gaza population and not only those who hold refugee status and benefit from UNRWA assistance.
The Hamas government "is the main party responsible for the distribution and supervision of this aid in an equitable manner. We are responsible for the 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip," he said. "We reject any discriminatory distinction."
Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad on Wednesday announced a 600-million-dollar aid program financed by donors to help rebuild Gaza.