UN relief convoy for besieged Palestinians in Gaza strip comes under fire

UNRWA chief Peter Hansen

14 July 2004 – The top United Nations relief official for Palestinian refugees was forced to take cover today when part of a UN aid convoy that had delivered food to 20,000 Gaza Strip residents besieged by Israel came under fire, apparently from an Israeli armoured personnel carrier (APC).

The incident occurred when 16 trucks of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), cleared for entry by the Israeli military, delivered 370 tons of food to residents of Beit Hanoun, who have been living under severe hardship since the northern Gaza Strip town was cut off from the rest of Gaza by Israel on 28 June.

Shortly after passing the APC, a five-vehicle segment of the convoy, clearly marked with UN flags and symbols and with UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen on board, stopped to survey a citrus orchard that had been bulldozed by the Israeli military.

“At that point rapid firing appeared to come from the APC in the direction of the convoy,” UNRWA said in a statement released in Gaza. “Hansen and the UNRWA personnel were forced to take cover in a nearby family home.” The UN official had just visited the food distribution and was inspecting some of the demolished areas on the outskirts of the town.

After further coordination with the Israeli military liaison office, and a wait of 30 minutes, the convoy was able to leave the area.

UNRWA delivered flour, oil, lentils, sugar rice and whole milk to the town, where fresh food supplies have been running low, breadwinners have been unable to reach work, and in a number of areas water and electricity infrastructure have been destroyed by Israeli military forces.

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