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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A tacit UN admission of Hamas stealing aid? (updated)

While UNRWA adamantly denies that Hamas is stealing aid in Gaza, contrary to reports from Israeli, PA and Jordanian officials, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes has just said something intriguing.

In a report to the UN on the situation in Gaza, where he criticizes both Israel and Hamas,
The Under-Secretary-General also emphasized that Hamas must refrain from any interference with the movement or distribution of humanitarian goods.
Why would this UN official ask them to refrain if they hadn't done anything?

It appears that those on the ground in Gaza know the rules: you don't directly criticize Hamas for doing things it does not admit to doing on its own. Everyone denying that Hamas steals aid happen to be in Gaza under effective Hamas rule; everyone who charges Hamas with these crimes are safely out of its reach.

UPDATE: I just got the official UNRWA denial via email:
There have been reports in the media and elsewhere that UNRWA aid for Gaza is being stolen, confiscated or diverted. These reports are entirely baseless. UNRWA has a system of closely monitoring our aid pipeline; from the port of Ashdod in Israel, our warehouses in the West Bank and the aid arriving in Gaza from Egypt and Jordan, through the crossings into the Gaza Strip, to our storage facilities in Gaza itself and finally to our distribution centres where recipients with authorized cards receive our assistance. At every stage our aid is checked by UNRWA officials. From this monitoring and our constant vigilance, we can say with certainty that no UNRWA aid in Gaza has been stolen, confiscated or diverted. If such eventualities were to occur, UNRWA would be aware and immediately take the issue up with any relevant parties and ensure redress.

Central to our obligation to assist and protect Palestine refugees is the duty to ensure that the relief provided by the international community reaches its intended recipients, namely, Palestinian civilians rendered vulnerable by the closure of Gaza’s borders and by the elusiveness since 1948 of a just and lasting solution to their plight.
I asked some very specific followup questions, which will be posted here if/when I get a response.