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UN halts aid to Gaza, charging theft

February 7, 2009
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JERUSALEM - The UN agency for Palestinian refugees suspended aid to the Gaza Strip yesterday, accusing the territory's Hamas rulers of stealing a delivery of humanitarian supplies for the second time this week.

The announcement by the UN Relief and Works Agency deepened tensions between the international body that assists the majority of Gaza's 1.4 million people and the Islamic group that controls the coastal strip.

UN officials say Gaza's needs are especially dire in the wake of Israel's military offensive against Hamas, which killed nearly 1,300 people and displaced thousands. They said they would continue to distribute aid already in Gaza, but supplies are thin.

The relief agency said it halted aid deliveries after the Hamas-run Ministry of Social Affairs stole 10 truckloads of flour and rice delivered to Gaza on Thursday. Earlier this week, Hamas police took thousands of blankets and food parcels meant for needy residents, the UN said.

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