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Government: 'No Lack of Food Supplies in Gaza'

Humanitarian crisis and blockade? Israel says there is no lack of food in Gaza, as indicated by a drop in the demand for wheat to produce flour.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 2/24/2009, 3:19 PM / Last Update: 2/24/2009, 3:49 PM

Israel News Photo: (Flash 90)

The Israeli government body responsible for operating the Gaza crossings says there is no lack of food for Arabs in the region, and the demand for wheat to produce flour and other grain is dropping.

According to the Defense Ministry's COGAT (Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories) spokesman Major Peter Lerner, there has been a significant reduction in the demand for supplies -- especially grain -- being shipped to Gaza through the crossings.

For example, in the week February 8-13, a total of 147 truckloads of grain were transferred into Gaza through the Karni Crossing conveyor. By contrast, the following week, only 91 truckloads were transferred because, there was simply no demand according to Lerner.

"They either have enough in the stores and warehouses, or they just don't want it," he told Israel National News. "Our counterparts in the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah have told us that they don't need any more than they are asking for; there is a lack of demand on the other end at this point."

In response to a question as to whether in fact the issue is really a lack of demand, or simply a lack of coordination within Gaza itself, Lerner said he was "not aware of any ongoing complaints about the lack of food supplies."

However, he commented that there are problems with the organizational structure in Gaza used for processing the massive amounts of humanitarian aid that are shipped to the region. "There's no tangible plan. We have asked for concrete plans, a specific number of trucks per day, things like that – but there's nothing."

Lerner added that there was little point in opening the conveyor on a daily basis for only a few truckloads of grain and that COGAT prefers to open the crossing several days a week for a higher number of truckloads to be transferred at one time in a more efficient manner. 

Since Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire on January 18, a total of 112,991 tons of humanitarian aid in the form of food commodities, medical equipment, medications, personal hygiene and other non-food supplies, various meat, dairy, livestock and other commercial items were delivered to Gaza through yesterday (Monday).

In addition, 10,062,900 liters of fuel for the Gaza power station has been pumped into the region through the Nahal Oz fuel depot, according to COGAT data.

On Monday, February 23, the Kerem Shalom, Nahal Oz, Karni and Erez crossings all operated, enabling transfer of a total of 156 trucks with 4,139 tons of supplies at the request of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) and the World Food Program, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), UNICEF and ANERA. Also delivered were goods for the public and private sectors that included fruit, medical supplies, rice, flour, sugar, oil, hatching eggs, blankets, diapers, and personal hygiene items. Via the Nahal Oz fuel depot, 442,000 liters of heavy duty diesel for the Gaza power station and 100 tons of gas for domestic uses were transferred as well.

International media often quote local Gaza terrorists who claim that residents are suffering a humanitarian crisis due to the "blockade" imposed by Israel at the crossings. However, each crossing has been open almost daily even before the ceasefire went into effect, despite the continuing rocket and mortar attacks by Gaza terrorists fired at southern Israeli towns.

Hamas terrorists object to other restrictions placed on the crossings, which are open for the delivery of humanitarian aid, as well as passage of Gaza residents who receive medical care in Israel and/or Egypt, and non-governmental agency workers and others with permits only.

One of the main demands of the terrorists in Egyptian-brokered negotiations for a ceasefire with Israel centers on opening the crossings completely to commercial and free domestic traffic in both directions, in and out of Gaza. Israel has refused to open the crossings until the terrorists return kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, who was abducted by Hamas terrorists on June 25, 2006.