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[Published: Monday February 09 2009]

UN halts Gaza aid over 'thefts'

New York, 09 Feb-(ANA)-The UN aid agency in Gaza says it has suspended all aid shipments, accusing the Hamas government of seizing hundreds of tonnes of food supplies.

Ten lorries carrying flour and rice were taken from the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom crossing, the UN's Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa) said.

Hamas admitted a "mistake" had been made and says it will return the goods.

But Unrwa says deliveries will not restart until it has assurances that such seizures will not happen again.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Hamas must immediately release the seized aid shipments.

He also called on Hamas "to refrain from interference with the provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance in Gaza".

Gaza is facing a humanitarian crisis after Israel's recent three-week offensive.

About half the population is dependent on UN food aid.

Israel intensified a blockade on the territory 19 months ago when Hamas took over the territory.

The lifting of the blockade is among Hamas' demands for agreeing a long-term truce with Israel. (ANA)

FA/ANA/09 February 2009---



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