JERUSALEM — The United Nations will take to Gaza tons of aid supplies languishing in an Israeli port for two weeks since they were seized in a bloody sea confrontation, the Israeli military said yesterday.
Richard Miron, a spokesman for the UN Mideast envoy, confirmed the deal. The military said the aid, taken from a six-ship Gaza-bound flotilla after nine people died in clashes, would fill 70 trucks.
Up to now, the Hamas rulers of Gaza have refused to accept the aid as a protest against Israel’s three-year blockade of the territory. Hamas had no comment on the arrangement, under which the United Nations would take charge of seeing that the aid would be used in authorized humanitarian projects.
The Israeli military statement noted that Israel offered to let the flotilla land at an Israeli port, and then the aid would be transferred overland to Gaza after inspection, but flotilla organizers refused.
The May 31 raid on the flotilla, when commandos clashed with pro-Palestinian activists and killed nine, has focused world attention on the blockade and its dire effects on Gaza’s 1.5 million people. Israel has been under intense international pressure to ease or lift the embargo since the clash.
With Egypt’s cooperation, Israel has blockaded Gaza by land and sea since Hamas overran Gaza three years ago. The embargo has allowed in little more than food, medicine, and basic humanitarian goods, causing Gaza’s already depressed economy to grind to a standstill. The embargo was meant to keep weapons out, weaken the Hamas government, and put pressure on the militants to release an Israeli soldier it has held for four years.
It bans building supplies from entering Gaza, saying that Hamas could use such materials to build fortifications.
In a typical week, Israel transfers about 500 truckloads of supplies to Gaza, plus 250,000 gallons of fuel for Gaza’s electric power station, according to military figures.