UN accuses Hamas of stealing Gaza aid

February 5th, 2009 - 12:00 am ICT by IANS  

Gaza City/Ramallah, Feb 4 (DPA) Police affiliated with the Islamic Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip forcibly seized 3,500 blankets and 406 food packages earmarked for hundreds of poor Gaza Strip families, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) charged Wednesday.The aid, sent to the Gaza Strip in the wake of Israel’s fierce three-week offensive against militants in the salient, which ended Jan 18 and left thousands of people homeless, was taken from an UNRWA station in the Shatti beach refugee camp Tuesday night, the organisation said in a statement.

It added that it “strongly condemned the confiscation” and demanded that the aid, intended for approximately 500 families, be returned at once.

The seizure marked the first time Hamas had seized UN aid, UNRWA said. However, Israeli officials have charged that during the Israeli operation Hamas gunmen routinely seized humanitarian aid allowed into the enclave.

Hamas and its security forces have administered and controlled the Gaza Strip since June 2007, when they routed security forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

But UNRWA has refused to hand the humanitarian aid it has received to the Hamas-ruled ministry of social welfare, saying that it has a “strict system” of monitoring aid deliveries to ensure it reaches its intended recipients.

Acting Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad meanwhile said Wednesday that reconstruction of homes in the Gaza Strip destroyed in the Israeli military assault last month will start immediately, with a $600-million fund provided by donors and banks.

He announced at a meeting in Ramallah that the Palestinian Authority (PA), which has had no control over the Gaza Strip since the Hamas seizure in June 2007, has launched an emergency programme to rebuild all destroyed and damaged homes in the Gaza Strip as a result of the 22-day Israeli military assault.

Hamas also said it will carry out reconstruction of the Gaza Strip and that it will provide $5,000 for each family who lost a home and $2,500 for those whose homes were partially destroyed. It will also give families of victims $1,200 per dead member and $600 for each one injured.

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