UN chief demands Hamas return provisions
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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has demanded that Hamas release humanitarian aid seized in Gaza from the UN agency UNRWA immediately. The agency suspended its operations on Friday.
REUTERS - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday pressed Hamas to release the humanitarian aid shipment it seized in the Gaza Strip and provide assurances that no further aid would be taken.
Ban's spokeswoman Michele Montas told reporters that Ban "demands that Hamas immediately release the (U.N.) consignment of humanitarian goods it seized last night, in the second such incident this week, and to refrain from interference with the provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance."
She added that Ban wanted guarantees that it would not happen again.
Hamas denied it had confiscated any supplies, saying it was a misunderstanding between drivers.
The U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which supports much of Gaza's 1.5 million population, said Hamas forces had seized 10 trucks loaded with humanitarian supplies. Earlier in the week Hamas men took blankets and food from an UNRWA store in Gaza.
Montas was asked about reports that the U.N. aid shipment might have been intended for a group linked to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party, which Hamas ousted from power in Gaza in 2007.
Montas ruled out the idea that there was a political dimension to U.N. aid activities in Gaza.
"What we do is give assistance to people who need it, regardless of their political affiliation," she said.
U.N. humanitarian officials communicate with Hamas to ensure that aid is properly distributed, but the world body says it has no official political contacts with the group.