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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The aid battle continues

The picture on what exactly is happening with aid trucks into Gaza is getting a little clearer, no thanks to the UNRWA which is keeping mum on the ugly details.

As commenter Suzanne uncovered, last year Hamas admitted it confiscated 16 trucks of aid from Jordan, meant for the Palestinian Red Crescent, and Jordan was not happy about it:
Minister of State for Information Affairs Nasser Joudeh said Hamas government on Thursday seized 16 trucks carrying emergency supplies into Gaza.

"We are surprised it should be confiscated and distributed in a manner based on political considerations...this only penalizes those who really deserve this aid," Joudeh said. Hamas claimed that the Red Crescent was not distributing the aid properly, since it is more oriented towards Fatah.
Hamas claimed that it would give that aid, which presumably was paid for by the ICRC... to UNRWA.

The denial that Chris Gunness gave me saying that he was unaware of any such incidents with any NGOs, and casting doubt on their having happened, seems less and less tenable.

Today, the JPost adds more details to the more recent incident: (also h/t Suzanne)
Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip claimed that dozens of trucks loaded with food and medicine were being held on the Egyptian side of the border at the request of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The officials said that the humanitarian aid came from several Arab and Islamic countries about two weeks ago. They said that the Egyptian authorities initially tried to deliver the aid to the Palestinians, but were stopped by Abbas.

"Abbas and Fatah are afraid that the aid would be used to strengthen the Hamas government," said a Hamas official. "That's why they are doing their best to prevent much of the aid from entering the Gaza Strip."

Another Hamas official claimed that the aid had been diverted to the West Bank, where Fatah representatives have confiscated the medicine and food. He did not rule out the possibility that some Fatah leaders were planning to sell the food and medicine in the black market.

The Hamas government said Tuesday that it has established a special fund to help the victims of the IDF operation and urged the international community not to give Abbas's authority any money.

Hamas also said that it would not allow the PA to play any role in the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. It said that the money should be channeled directly to the victims and not to Abbas's aides in Ramallah.

Fatah strongly denied the allegations and claimed that Hamas militiamen have been stealing the aid since the beginning of Israel's military operation.

Fatah also warned donors against dealing with Hamas directly.

A Fatah official said that on Monday night alone, Hamas gunmen intercepted 12 trucks loaded with humanitarian aid that had been donated by the Jordanian government to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

He said that the trucks were on their way to the headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) when the gunmen belonging to the movement's armed wing, Izaddin al-Kassam, stopped them and confiscated their contents.

The Jordanian authorities confirmed on Tuesday that Hamas gunmen had seized the trucks shortly after they entered the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom border crossing.

Last week Fatah activists and eyewitnesses in the Gaza Strip claimed that Hamas had confiscated fuel and food that was en route to hospitals and schools housing thousands of Palestinian families.
We have here a classic turf war, where both sides are accomplished liars. If we discount everything that any Gazan says, we still have Jordanians saying that on at least two occasions their aid convoys have been confiscated by Hamas.

The intriguing part is that Hamas considers UNRWA to be on its side. Given my correspondence with UNRWA's spokesman, and UNRWA's adamant refusal to say anything negative about Hamas even as it put untold thousands of civilians at risk, they may have good reason to consider UNRWA as their own.

UPDATE: Palpress, which is Fatah-oriented, blames Israel for not letting ten aid trucks in from Egypt, not Fatah.