News / Middle East

UN to Distribute Turkish Flotilla Aid to Gaza

Israeli navy intercepts Gaza-bound aid flotilla in the Mediterranean Sea on 31 May 2010 in a pre-dawn assault which killed several pro-Palestinian activists and sparked global outrage
Israeli navy intercepts Gaza-bound aid flotilla in the Mediterranean Sea on 31 May 2010 in a pre-dawn assault which killed several pro-Palestinian activists and sparked global outrage

The United Nations says it will take responsibility for the cargo Israel seized from a flotilla of Turkish ships bound for the Gaza Strip last month and distribute it to Palestinians living there.

U.N. Middle East coordinator Robert Serry told the Security Council Tuesday that the world body has received permission from both the cargo owners and the government of Israel to intercede.

"The United Nations has obtained the consent of the cargo owners of the three Turkish-registered vessels to take possession of and responsibility for the entire cargo and ensure its timely distribution in Gaza for humanitarian purposes as determined by the United Nations," he said.

Serry said the flotilla crisis, in which nine activists aboard the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara died during an Israeli commando raid in international waters, is the latest symptom of a failed policy, and he called for the blockade to end.

The activists were trying to break the three-year old Israeli blockade on Gaza, despite repeated warnings from Israeli authorities not to try.

Under the blockade, Serry said Israel allows in just over 100 items.  

"The basic principle that should guide the policy on Gaza is clear. Everything should be allowed into Gaza, unless there is a specific and legitimate security reason," said Serry.

Gaza has been under the tightened restrictions since the Palestinian militant group Hamas took control of the territory in 2007. Israel wants to weaken the group and keep materials that could be used for making rockets or other weapons out of their hands. But human rights groups and the U.N. have criticized the move as "collective punishment" and say many essential items are not getting in, and are forcing Palestinians to rely on the black market - which in turn empowers smugglers and militants.

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