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UN says israel fuels extremists { November 7 2007 }

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UN: Israel Fuels Support for Extremists
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer


The head of the U.N. agency responsible for aiding Palestinian refugees said Wednesday that Israel's near economic blockade of the Gaza Strip is fueling support for extremists and shattering hopes for a peaceful future.

"They're trying to punish those who've taken control of Gaza but in fact they're punishing everybody inside Gaza, a very small percentage of whom support the people who are controlling Gaza right now," Karen Koning AbuZayd of the United Nations Works and Relief Agency said.

The violent takeover of the Gaza Strip last June by the Islamic militants of the Hamas movement, and their continual rocketing of Israel, has led to Gaza's increasing isolation. In September, Israel declared Gaza a "hostile entity," clearing the way for economic sanctions.

Also Wednesday, Israel's Supreme Court delayed for at least a week a government plan to cut back on electricity to Gaza following appeals from 10 human rights organizations.

The appeals charged that the cut would be an illegal collective punishment because Gaza remains dependent on Israel for most of its electricity and all of its fuel. Gisha, one of the rights groups, said the court gave the state one week to respond to the appeals, and the human rights organizations would have another week to answer.

Israel ordered progressive utility cuts hoping that Palestinian residents would pressure militant groups to stop the attacks. Israel explained the cutbacks as part if its disengagement from Gaza. Israel withdrew its soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005.

The human rights groups say that Israel is still responsible for Gaza because it controls its air, sea and land access, and the utility cuts would punish civilians.

At a news conference at U.N. headquarters in New York, AbuZayd painted a grim picture of life in the Gaza Strip, saying there has been a 71 percent decrease in goods going into Gaza since May, there is "zero stock" of 91 drugs compared to 61 last month, and farmers do not have the money to get their crops picked or send them to market so they are rotting.

That means that there are no fruits and vegetables to supplement the basic rations that 80 percent of Gaza's population receive _ flour, oil, sugar, a bit of lentils and powdered milk _ either from UNRWA or the U.N. World Food Program, she said.

"It's not good enough," AbuZayd said. "UNRWA's only giving 61 percent" of the daily nutritional needs.

The main commercial crossings into Gaza from Israel and Egypt have been closed since June, so "there are no imports, exports," and there isn't even enough cash being brought in which has made living very difficult, she said.

"We at least have these two military crossings we're using and getting in just enough humanitarian supplies," AbuZayd said. "Israel is very concerned that there is no humanitarian disaster there. There will always be enough food and medicine, but these are very basic rations that are coming in."

She also expressed hope that this month's U.S.-sponsored Mideast conference will lead to positive movement on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and provide new hope for the Palestinian people.


AP writer Mark Lavie in Jerusalem contributed to this story.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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