The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees said Friday it has halted all aid shipments into the Gaza Strip due to interference by Hamas. According to the AP, the U.N. Relief and Works agency said it made the decision after Hamas members intercepted an aid shipment for the second time this week.
In a statement, UNRWA said 10 truckloads of flour and rice that had been delivered into Gaza Strip on Thursday were taken away by trucks affiliated with the Hamas-run Ministry of Social Affairs. Earlier this week, Hamas police took thousands of blankets and food parcels meant for needy residents.
UNRWA conveyed the suspension would remain in effect until the aid is returned and the agency receives assurances from the Hamas government that such thefts will end. UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness stated the agency would continue to distribute aid from its existing supplies in Gaza, but that stocks were running low.
"There is enough aid for days, not weeks," he said. Complicating the situation, he said the agency has not been able to import plastic bags used for food distribution, and that existing supplies will run out early next week.
On his part, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum described UNRWA's decision "unjustified." According to him, Hamas supports UNRWA's work but believes the agency gives some of its aid to groups attached to Hamas' rivals. He called on UNRWA "to put an end to using aid for political means, and to distribute it to all the needy equally."