Last updated: 8 April, 2013

Hundreds protest against UN’s Gaza aid suspension

The United Nations said it will reopen aid distribution centres in Gaza on Tuesday, after a four-day closure in response to the storming of its offices by protesters.

The United Nations relief agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, stopped food deliveries after dozens of Gazans forced their way into its Gaza field office last Thursday.

They were demanding the reinstatement of a monthly cash allowance to poor families that was halted from April 1 due to budget cuts.

UNRWA “decided to reopen all of its 20 aid distribution centres in the Gaza Strip after receiving guarantees from local security actors that staff would be safe and allowed to do their job,” spokesman Adnan Abu Hasna said.

The Islamist movement Hamas, which rules Gaza, had insisted that security was sufficient and said UNRWA had “overreacted” to what it called peaceful protests.

Hamas deputy foreign minister Ghazi Hamad said UNRWA’s decision on Monday to restart aid distribution came after meetings in which the government stressed the agency’s importance to the besieged enclave.

Officials also said UNRWA should “continue to work with popular committees in Gaza… in order to prevent violent demonstrations against it,” he added.

On Monday, hundreds of Palestinians rallied outside UNRWA’s Gaza City office protesting against its decision to suspend aid to refugees, witnesses said.

UNRWA had said its relief and distribution centres would stay shut until “guarantees are given… that UNRWA operations can continue unhindered.”

Abu Hasna said UNRWA was trying to raise $68 million (52 million euros) from donors to cover the deficit that caused it to suspend financial aid to some 100,000 refugees in Gaza.