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Israel lets "few days" of food supplies into Gaza; UN: "but then what?"

Nov. 17, 2008 9:28 A.M. (Updated: Nov. 17, 2008 9:28 A.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Delivery of an unspecified number of aid and food trucks to UNRWA and Gaza Strip commercial dealers was confirmed on Monday after Israel threatened to withhold the supplies "depending" on the actions of resistance groups, who launched projectiles at the Negev Monday afternoon.

Thirty-three trucks filled with frozen meat, dairy products, medicines and UNRWA food aid waited at the Gaza border since Sunday, when they were turned back on the orders of Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Barak ordered the crossings closed Monday but appeared to have changed his mind after international condemnation for the decision increased.

Then, mid-day on Monday Israel reported the launch of several homemade projectiles from the Gaza Strip, and said they landed in the western Negev. No injuries were reported, and the act has not yet been claimed by any of the Palestinian factions in Gaza.

When the projectiles were launched into the Negev, however, the fate of the aid supplies became uncertain.

According to UN officials the supplies will last only a few days, "But then what?" asked UNRWA spokesperson Christopher Gunness.

Head of the Products Coordination Committee for the Gaza Strip Ra'id Fattouh said Israel informed the Palestinian side late on Sunday that the Karem Shalom crossing would be opened to allow 15 trucks of dairy products and frozen meat destined for the private sector and 18 others shipping aid for UNRWA and international organizations.

None of the trucks waiting at the border contain fuel supplies, and Israel has indicated that the Nahal Oz crossing, designed for fuel transfers, will remain shut. The crossing has not seen any fuel transfers for the last five days, and only one transfer of fuel over the last thirteen days.

The token amount of aid for the 1.5 million Gazans affected by the blockade is a reversal of Barak's Sunday evening order to keep the crossings closed Monday, after trucks carrying medical supplies and emergency food were turned away from Gaza crossings.

Israeli sources reported that the Defense Minister had instructed the Israeli border guards and military establishment in control of the Gaza Strip to keep the goods crossings closed on Monday.

Sunday saw a series of homemade projectile launches executed by Palestinian resistance factions towards Israeli targets, though no injuries on the Israeli side were reported. Early in the day Israeli air forces carried out an air raid killing four activists, and in the early evening explosions were heard in Gaza, though the Israeli army denied any further strikes.

***Updated 13:33 Bethlehem time

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