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UN Official Says Israel and Hezbollah Block Aid to Lebanese Civilians

The top United Nations humanitarian official says Israel and Hezbollah are blocking aid from reaching civilians trapped in southern Lebanon.

U.N. Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland said Thursday in Geneva that the two sides could give the U.N. access "in a heartbeat." And he called the situation a disgrace.

Egeland said four hospitals in southern Lebanon already are out of fuel because supplies have not arrived.

Speaking in Beirut, a spokesman for the U.N. World Food Program, Zlatan Milisic, called for a cessation of hostilities so that aid can reach an estimated 100,000 Lebanese trapped in south Lebanon's battleground areas. He said the U.N. operation is facing paralysis.

In Brussels Thursday, an EU official, Louis Michel of Belgium, called on Israel and Hezbollah to respect international rules that limit the effects of combat on civilians.

He intends to meet with senior Israeli and Lebanese officials when he visits the two countries next week.

Earlier this week, the Israeli army said vehicles traveling south of the Litani River risk being attacked. Aid vehicles are supposed to be allowed though. But the U.N. says the Israeli army has not given permission for a convoy to Nabatiyeh, north of the Litani.

The French-based group Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) also criticized Israel Thursday. Its president, Rowan Gillies, said a ban on all forms of movement will lead to more civilian death and suffering.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, Reuters and AFP.