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U.N. closes aid centers in Gaza

SHATI REFUGEE CAMP, Gaza Strip — Gazans seeking food aid walked away empty-handed from locked United Nations distribution centers Saturday after a strict Israeli border closure depleted U.N. food reserves.

Israel sealed Gaza's borders nearly two weeks ago as part of a new round of fighting with Gaza's Hamas rulers. Hamas rocket fire on Israeli border towns and Israeli air strikes on Gaza militants have eroded a truce that had largely held for five months.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Israel to open the crossings to humanitarian aid and condemned the rocket fire on Israel. Measures that increase the suffering of Gaza's civilians "are unacceptable and should cease immediately," he said.

Two Palestinians were killed in disputed circumstances in northern Gaza.

Palestinian Health Ministry official Dr. Moawiya Hassanain, citing reports from local medics, said the two were killed by an Israeli airstrike. However, the military said Israeli forces were not involved and in the past, militants have sometimes been killed by Gaza rockets that fell short or exploded early.

The Popular Resistance Committees, a small militant group, said one of its members was killed. The identity of the second man was not immediately known.

In the Shati refugee camp near Gaza City, hundreds of people walked away empty-handed from a U.N. food distribution center Saturday. A note taped to the center's blue gate said handouts were put off until Dec. 13 "because of a lack of food to distribute."

In all, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency distributes food to some 750,000 Gazans, or nearly half the territory's population. The needy get a new parcel of rice, flour, sugar and oil every three months. On Saturday, some 20,000 Gazans were to pick up food supplies, U.N. aid officials said.

The U.N. World Food Program, which feeds another 130,000 Gazans, says it has enough food to distribute for the next four weeks.

Most of Gaza's 1.4-million residents live in poverty that has deepened since Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on the territory after militant group Hamas seized power in July of last year.

U.N. closes aid centers in Gaza 11/15/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 9:48am]
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