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UN: Israeli Restrictions Hamper Aid Programs to Palestinians - 2002-05-14

The United Nations agency that assists Palestinian refugees has said Israeli proposals to tighten movement in the Palestinian territories would severely hamper its humanitarian programs.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees said it is concerned about proposed Israeli restrictions on the freedom of movement by international donor agencies that provide aid to the Palestinian territories.

The agency said the Israeli measures will require Palestinians to get a special permit if they want to travel from one city to another in the West Bank. Holders of Jerusalem identity cards will not be able to travel to the Palestinian territories as easily as before.

Israel also has told the U.N. agency and other relief organizations that they must use international drivers for transporting medical and food supplies. U.N. spokesman Rene Aquarone said the agency is discussing the matter with Israeli authorities.

"We are very concerned because if these announced measures are put into effect, this will cripple the activities of the agency - its relief and emergency activities and its normal activities. If we have a teacher who is working in Jenin and living in Nablus then this teacher cannot go to his or her work. And the same goes for our medical staff, etc," she said.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency employs 14,000 Palestinians for its medical, educational, and social work in the West Bank and Gaza. It has fewer than 100 international workers. The agency said employing internationals to drive its relief trucks will drastically increase its operation costs.