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Humanitarian Crisis Looms in Gaza, warns UN

The Gaza Strip faces a humanitarian crisis as border crossing disputes continue to prevent the efficient flow of basic foodstuffs to the most vulnerable people.
( [email protected] ) Mar 20, 2006 10:13 AM EST

The Gaza Strip faces a humanitarian crisis as border crossing disputes continue to prevent the efficient flow of basic foodstuffs to the most vulnerable people.

The United Nations has warned of a looming humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip as the region remains dangerously low on basic foodstuffs as a result of the continued closure of the main trade crossing with Israel.

The Gaza director of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), John Ging, said his organisation had run out of food to distribute to the most at risk families, reports AFP.

"Every day is taking us closer to a humanitarian crisis," John Ging told reporters.

"Flour and wheat are not the only products in short supply. There is a shortage of sugar, oil and many of the other basic commodities.

"If the borders remain closed then everything will begin to become a crisis in itself."

His warnings came as the US ambassador to Israel, Richard Jones, hosted talks aimed at resolving the increasingly ugly dispute over border crossings in the region.

The Karni crossing has been closed for most of the year due to security concerns on the Israeli side, with negotiations to open an alternative crossing so far in stalemate.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat said a meeting at Jones’ residence Sunday that no breakthrough had been achieved but that all sides had agreed to reconvene on the issue.

“We discussed the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza which has come about because of the Israeli siege," Erakat told AFP after the meeting in a reflection of the bitterness between the two sides.

He added: "We decided on an Egyptian-Palestinian-U.S. meeting to agree on arrangements for goods to enter (Gaza) through Kerem Shalom."

Ging said it was essential that both sides come to an agreement as soon as possible.

"I am calling on everybody who can assist to solve the situation where the borders are closed and the result is that people here in Gaza do not have enough bread, the very basics that are needed to sustain our lives," he said.

"We have thousands of tonnes of food waiting at Karni crossing and we have used the reserves that we have here. They have already been distributed."

The severe wheat and flour shortages has led to the closure of many bakeries in Gaza, while long queues have been seen forming outside of those that remain open.