By George Whitten, BosNewsLife Middle East Chief Correspondent
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL (BosNewsLife) -– The United Nations announced Friday, February 6, it has stopped sending humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip after militants of the Hamas group apparently seized 300 tons of supplies, in the second such incident in as many days.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said the latest robbery happened late Thursday, February 5, just after on Tuesday, February 3, Hamas police raided a U.N. storage facility in a refugee camp.
On Thursday night, February 5, Hamas seized 200 metric tons of rice, and 100 metric tons of flour, U.N. aid workers said.
In Tuesday’s incident, Hamas confiscated “at gunpoint” about 3,500 blankets and over 400 food parcels meant to help hundreds of families in the Gaza City Beach Camp, U.N. officials said.
It was part of the emergency aid being distributed after Israel’s 22-day military offensive in Gaza that ended January 18.
The UNRWA claims to provide food, education and health care to more than half of Gaza’s 1.4 million residents and it was not immediately what impact its decision to halt shipments would have on the population.
UNRWA already said that 400 trucks were needed to avoid a crisis, but that at the moment roughly up to 140 trucks are entering into Gaza every day.
The U.N. said deliveries will not resume until the seized aid is “returned and guarantees are made by Hamas that no such occurrences will happen in the future.”
UNRWA told Israel Friday, February 6, that it was suspending its shipments of aid into Gaza, and that Sunday’s shipments were already canceled.
The U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urged Hamas to return the aid immediately and said the Security Councils resolution 1860 calls for the “unimpeded provision and distribution” throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including food, fuel and medical supplies.
The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) suggested it was not surprised about the latest developments. “On several occasions we have witnessed Hamas stealing aid such as flour and medicine to be sold on the black market”, IDF spokeswoman Avital Leibovitch told BosNewsLife.
Mahmoud Al-Habbash, the Palestinian Minister for Social Affairs, said that Hamas seized “63 trucks delivering aid consisting of food and medicine” which were on their way to the UNRWA warehouses in January, according to a translation of Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam provided by Palestinian Media Watch.
In January, BosNewsLife and its partner news agency Worthy News reported the seizure of a Jordanian aid convoy by Hamas.