Israeli Minister Blocks Flour From Reaching UNRWA in Gaza

The Israeli finance ministry has blocked deliveries of food for Gaza because the shipments were intended to reach the main U.N. agency for Palestinians, Israel’s finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, said on Tuesday.

Mr. Smotrich, a hard-right settler leader, said in a statement that he had issued a directive not to transfer flour shipments to the agency, known as UNRWA, citing allegations that some of its employees were affiliated with Hamas, including 12 accused of participating in the armed group’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

Last week, a subcontractor handling the shipments for UNRWA received a call from Israel’s customs agency — which is housed in Mr. Smotrich’s ministry — ordering it not to process any UNRWA goods in its warehouse, said Juliette Touma, an UNRWA spokeswoman.

About 1,050 containers — much of it flour — have been held up at the Israeli port of Ashdod, Philippe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, told reporters on Friday. The amount was enough to feed 1.1 million Gazans for a month, he said. Mr. Lazzarini said UNRWA still has enough supplies to feed Gazans for three months, but only because the food is now being routed through Egypt rather than Israel.

Mr. Smotrich said another aid distribution mechanism would be found “that would not reach Hamas,” which he said was utilizing UNRWA as a “key part of its war machine.” UNRWA has said it is investigating the allegations, but has stood by its work as essential humanitarian relief in a complex situation.

A worker distributing humanitarian aid at an UNRWA center in Rafah, in southern Gaza, last month.Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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