The United Nations Relief and Workers Agency says it has halted aid deliveries to the besieged
Gaza Strip until the safety of aid workers can be guaranteed. The agency is calling for a permanent
Elena Mancusi Materi tells VOA the decision was made after one of
UNRWA's drivers was shot and killed by tank fire while on his way to an
Israeli border crossing to pick up some goods.
"We are not
willing to put at risk the security of our staff or of our contractors
by asking them to move along in trucks and to go around the Strip," she
said. "But, if somebody comes to our distribution center asking for
food, of course, we will be giving them food. If somebody comes to one
of our shelters to be hosted, of course we will host these people."
Mancusi says full operations will be resumed once UNRWA receives guarantees of safety from the Israeli authorities.
earlier from Jerusalem to journalists in Geneva, UNRWA chief spokesman
Christopher Gunnis said UNRWA only has enough food on hand for several
UNRWA feeds 750,000 Palestinian refugees in Gaza. On
any given day, about 20,000 people pick up their food rations from
various distribution points. Given the vast needs, he says a daily
three-hour suspension of hostilities is not enough for the aid agencies
to help all the people of Gaza.
"We got access to a shelter in
the north of Gaza that had been cut off for days," Gunnis said. "We were
able to get down to the south and refuel some of our vehicles where we
had not been able to get food, and we began the process of recovering
some damaged food stocks, again in the north. Although there is a
pause, of course on the ground, there remain Israeli positions, which
means that the Gaza Strip is extremely difficult to move around."
Committee of the Red Cross Deputy Director of Operations Dominique
Stillhart says health workers, particularly from the Palestine Red
Crescent Society, must be granted around-the-clock safe, unlimited
passage to reach the wounded, treat them and take them to hospitals if
"I just want to tell you that we have had cases of wounded people dying because ambulances could not reach them," he said.
says during the three-hour break in hostilities Wednesday, Israeli
officials finally allowed a Red Cross-Red Crescent team to go into
houses shelled four days earlier in the Zaytun neighborhood of Gaza
He says the rescuers found 15 dead and 18 wounded,
including found four small children too weak to stand on their own next
to their dead mothers.
"And, this only 80 meters away from an
IDF, Israeli military post who were clearly aware what was happening in
these houses and they did not allow the Palestinian Crescent and ICRC
to access these places," he said. "And, clearly failed ... their own obligation
under international humanitarian law to care for the wounded regardless
of which side, be they Palestinian or Israeli wounded."
Israeli Ambassador in Geneva, Aharon Leshno-Yaar, says his country
respects international humanitarian law and did not fail in its
humanitarian obligation. He says it only became possible for
humanitarian teams to evacuate the wounded once the military activity