UN lacks fuel, stops distributing food in Gaza

Official claims relief vehicles out of fuel following blockade, 700,000 Palestinians won't get food.

Gaza aid 224.88 (photo credit: )
Gaza aid 224.88
(photo credit: )
The United Nations on Thursday stopped distributing food to Palestinian refugees in Gaza because its vehicles have run out of fuel following the Israeli blockade, a UN official said. The official, Adnan Abu Hasna, said 700,000 Palestinians who depend on the UN for basic food packets, won't be getting them. He said the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) used the last of its fuel on Thursday. That forced it to stop distribution. Abu Hasna, the UNRWA spokesman, said that without fuel for its vehicles, the agency could not bring new shipments to its warehouses or distribute it to needy Palestinians. As of Thursday evening, he said, "all of our regular food operations have stopped because of the fuel shortage." There was no immediate Israeli comment about the UNRWA move. There is some fuel stored in Gaza - but a local strike by distributors means it is not reaching the public. Palestinian distributors have been refusing to pick up about a million liters that Israel pumped earlier this month into the Palestinian side of the border fuel depot, saying the quantity is insufficient. On Wednesday, UNRWA director John Ging acknowledged the "complicated fuel situation," but said Israel "must provide enough fuel for daily needs." A shutdown of Gaza's sole power plant was averted Wednesday, after Israel began pumping diesel fuel into the Gaza Strip via the Nahal Oz fuel depot. The Defense Ministry decided to send one million liters of diesel fuel to Gaza after the Palestinians claimed that the power plant would otherwise shut down by the end of the day. Israel last transferred fuel to Gaza last week, but had decided to stop the supplies in response to the Islamic Jihad attack on the Nahal Oz depot two weeks ago that killed two Israeli truck drivers. Meanwhile, Israel transferred 70 trucks of food to Gaza via the Sufa border crossing Thursday. Earlier, head of the Defense Ministry Crossing Directorate, Bezalel Treiber said that Hamas's claims of a food shortage in Gaza were baseless. Treiber told Israel Radio that in recent months, thousands of tons of food had been transferred to the Strip daily and that every week, hundreds of sick Gazas leave for medical treatment. The Defense Ministry official went on to say that the international organizations which donate food to the Palestinians told him that there had not been so much food in Gaza for a long time. Also Thursday, Hamas called on Gazans to take to the streets in protest of the blockade imposed on the territory. The movement urged Palestinians in the Strip to hold protest marches after Friday prayers. Yaakov Katz contributed to this report