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UN: Roadblocks, Curfews Limiting Aid Delivery in West Bank, Gaza - 2002-04-30

United Nations relief agencies have said roadblocks and curfews are hampering the movement of humanitarian aid to the West Bank and Gaza. But the agencies say some assistance is getting through.

U.N. officials have said the problem of access remains "significant and serious" for humanitarian workers trying to bring food and medical supplies to the Palestinian territories.

The World Food Program said it has delivered food aid to 94,000 Palestinians in Gaza since the end of March, but could reach only 6,000 Palestinians in the West Bank. It said the West Bank assistance could be delivered only to people in hospitals, orphanages, or homes for the elderly.

Rene Aquarone of the U.N. agency aiding Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said the situation in the territories is getting worse because roadblocks hinder aid from getting to the people who need it.

"Movement of goods in and out of Israel from the only goods crossing, which is called 'Karni,' is also very, very limited. And there are serious shortages in food, in cement, in animal feed for chicken farms, and this kind of thing has taken place. UNRWA has had to loan 250 tons of flour to the Palestinian Authority for it to sell to the local bakeries so that people can actually have bread," he said.

The World Health Organization said it has flown emergency medical kits to treat 200,000 Palestinians to Amman, Jordan, after Israel refused permission for the plane to land in Tel Aviv. It said it hopes to bring the medical aid to the Palestinian territories overland.

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Yaacov Levy, said his country is working closely with aid agencies to ease difficulties faced in the Palestinian territories. He said roadblocks and curfews are necessary because of the continued threat of Palestinian suicide bombings.

"There are still some difficulties freely moving around because of these major security threats we are still facing. But I can show you a list of massive medical supplies and donations, which came into Israel and the Palestinian territories over the past 10 days from around the world," Mr. Levy said.

U.N. officials estimate the Israeli military incursions in the West Bank caused about $300 million worth of damage. They have said that includes more than $100 million in damage in the town of Nablus and more than $40 million in damage in the Jenin refugee camp.

The government of the United Arab Emirates said it will fund the reconstruction of the refugee camp at Jenin.