Middle East: UN food agency 'pins hopes' on partial Gaza truce

Jerusalem, 7 Jan. (AKI) - The United Nations World Food Programme on Wednesday welcomed the three-hour daily pause in Israel's aerial and ground offensive in Gaza. "We are pinning our hopes on the 1 to 4 p.m. ceasefire to do our daily distribution," WFP spokesperson in Jerusalem Robin Lodge told Adnkronos International (AKI).

"We hope Palestinians will be confident to come out of their houses and go to distribution points," Lodge said.

"People are not starving but they are cold and hungry and very short of food," he said, pointing out that temperatures dropped below freezing at night.

Israel observed its first daily three-hour ceasefire on Wednesday since it began Operation Cast Lead twelve days ago. More than 650 Palestinians have been killed and close to 3,000 others injured by Israeli firepower and aid agencies have complained of severe shortages of food and medical supplies.

WFP currently has 3,700 tonnes of food stocks in the aid-dependent Gaza Strip, which it should have been distributed in October-December last year.

Under normal circumstances, this would be enough to last two months, but WFP is now feeding an extra 50,000 people on top of the 265,000 it normally handles, Lodge noted.

"This means we have enough supplies to last for a month at most," he stated. "We need a lot more."

Due to the Israeli blockade which was partially lifted in December, WPF has 150 truckloads of staple foods waiting at the Kerem Shalom border in southern Gaza, Lodge explained.

"We hope 20 truckloads will enter the territory today at the Erez crossing in the north," he said.

"Two days ago, 11 trucks were allowed in. We don't yet know how many got in yesterday."

WFP deliveries are mainly of wheat flour, vegetable oil, split peas and sugar. It has also made emergency distributions of canned meat and fish.

It is also looking to supply therapeutic baby food to feed small infants suffering from malnutrition, he said.

High-energy biscuits have been delivered to 13 Gaza hospitals, enough for 6,000 patients and staff for up to one month, according to WFP.

"Food supplies have to be unloaded on the Israeli side and reloaded onto trucks inside Gaza. This requires a lot of labour, but due to the current security situation, people are afraid," Lodge said.

No WFP staff are allowed inside Gaza and no staff may move in and out of the territory, he said.

Approximately half the available food supplies are being stored in Gaza's social affairs ministry warehouses, which are currently not operational. The remainder is in the WFP main warehouse in Gaza, which is inaccessible due to the fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants.

An official from ruling Hamas' political office stated on Wednesday its fighters would respect the daily humanitarian truce.

WFP is calling on donor nations to give an extra 72.5 million dollars to meet the needs of Gazans this year.


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