UN halts aid to Gaza after Hamas seizure

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The UN yesterday suspended food aid in Gaza after the seizure by a Hamas-controlled ministry of 10 truckloads of flour and rice intended for distribution to civilians in the Strip.

The seizure was the second in 48 hours after Hamas police took thousands of blankets and food parcels destined for Gaza residents displaced by Israel's 22-day military offensive last month.

After the overnight seizure, Chris Gunness, chief spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency, which is responsible for the welfare of a majority of Gaza's 1.4 million residents, said: "Hamas has got to hand back all the aid that they have taken and they have to give credible assurances that this will not happen again. Until this happens, our imports into Gaza will be suspended." He said that a complaint had been filed with the Hamas de facto government and added: "There is enough aid for days, not weeks."

The complaint came a day after John Ging, director of operations in Gaza for UNRWA, criticised both Hamas and Israel – which is currently halting the import of paper needed for schoolbooks as well as some other supplies aid agencies want to import – for blocking badly needed materials into the Strip.

The Hamas Social Affairs Minister in Gaza, Ahmed al-Kurd, blamed the most recent seizure on a "misunderstanding" and expressed hope the dispute would soon be resolved. "We welcome all aid, whether from UNRWA or international organisations," he said.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military confirmed the launching of air strikes on Gaza targets after the continued firing of rockets by militants.