UN says aid to Gaza should be delivered by land

The United Nations said on Friday that groups seeking to deliver aid to Gaza should do so by land.


Afp July 24, 2010

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations said on Friday that groups seeking to deliver aid to Gaza should do so by land, after Israel warned it would intercept two ships seeking to break a blockade of the Palestinian enclave.

"There are established routes for supplies to enter by land. That is the way aid should be delivered to the people of Gaza," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told a press briefing. "Our stated preference has been and remains that aid should be delivered by established routes, particularly at a sensitive time in indirect proximity (peace) talks between Palestinians and Israelis," he added. He made the comments after Israel served notice its forces would prevent a planned Lebanese aid flotilla from reaching the Gaza Strip.

"We have received information in recent days about a plan to send a new flotilla to break the blockade around Gaza," Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Israeli television. "This is an unnecessary provocation and we believe that preventing such a flotilla is the responsibility of the Lebanese government."

"If this flotilla does leave Lebanon and refuses to be led by our navy to the (Israeli) port of Ashdod, we will have no other choice than to arrest it at sea," the minister added. "There exists a way of transferring goods, which are not weapons or material for war-like purposes, to the Gaza Strip through the port of Ashdod."

Israel's UN Ambassador Gabriela Shalev earlier delivered a similar warning in a letter addressed to UN chief Ban Ki-moon. It was Israel's latest warning against any attempt to circumvent its naval blockade around the Gaza Strip despite world pressure in the wake of a May 31 Israeli commando raid that killed nine Turkish activists aboard an aid flotilla on a blockade-busting bid.

Israel imposed the blockade in June 2006 after its soldier, Gilad Shalit, was captured by Gaza militants and tightened it a year later when Hamas seized power in the coastal strip.

In the wake of the May 31 incident, Israel has significantly eased the blockade, barring only arms and goods that could be used to create weapons or build fortifications, but it has maintained a naval blockade of the Strip. "There has been progress in increasing the amount of aid, but it's far from enough and we continue to call for that," Nesirky said. "We repeatedly said it is vital there should be unfettered access for people and supplies."

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