Contact Us

Israeli minister blocking flour shipment to Gaza: Reports

Anadolu Agency MIDDLE EAST
Published February 13,2024
(File Photo)

Israeli ultranationalist Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich is preventing flour shipment to the Gaza Strip, saying the U.S.-funded supplies are intended for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

The shipment has been stuck at the Ashdod port in southern Israel for weeks, as Smotrich ordered customs authorities "not to release the shipment as long as UNRWA is the recipient," the American news website Axios reported on Tuesday.

The highest levels of the Biden administration raised the possibility of the flour shipment more than a month ago, it said, citing U.S. and Israeli officials.

''US officials said this is a violation of a commitment Benjamin Netanyahu personally made to President Biden several weeks ago and another reason the U.S. leader is frustrated with the Israeli prime minister,'' the media outlet said.

The Israeli war and security cabinets approved the delivery of the flour from the port of Ashdod through the Kerem Shalom crossing, the website said, citing unnamed Israeli officials.

They added that Smotrich ordered the Israeli customs service "not to release the shipment as long as UNRWA is the recipient."

Smotrich and the U.S. have not issued any official statement on the report.

Several countries, including the U.S., UK, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and Canada, have suspended funding for the UNRWA following the Israeli accusations.

The UN agency has said that it is investigating these allegations.

Established in 1949 to help Palestinian refugees across the Middle East, the UNRWA enjoys customs and tax exemptions on imported products for the agency's operations. It is also exempted from VAT and taxes on fuel purchases for organizational purposes.

The Israeli war on Gaza has pushed 85% of the territory's population into internal displacement amid acute shortages of food, clean water, and medicine, while 60% of the enclave's infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

At least 28,473 Palestinians have since been killed and 68,146 others injured, while nearly 1,200 Israelis are believed to have been killed in the Hamas attack.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice, which in an interim ruling this January ordered Tel Aviv to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.