|Middle East: UN agency urges restraint after Israeli forces destroy Gaza warehouse
2 December – Following this weekend’s demolition of a United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warehouse in Gaza by the Israeli Defence Forces, the agency today issued a strong appeal to the Israeli Government to compensate for the losses incurred and observe humanitarian principles.
WFP lost 537 metric tonnes of food – worth $271,000 – stored in the warehouse in Jaballia which was targeted in a military incursion on Saturday night.
“The fact that WFP was not permitted to remove the food is worrisome,” said Jean-Luc Siblot, WFP country director. “The food, which was housed on the ground floor of a three-story building and clearly marked as WFP property, mainly comprised donations from the European Commission and Sweden and was to be distributed by the Ministry of Social Affairs to some 41,300 destitute Palestinians affected by the ongoing humanitarian crises in the Gaza Strip.”
According to WFP, the Israeli Defense Force surrounded the area and six tanks were parked in front of the building. After requesting residents to evacuate their homes, IDF soldiers entered the building and conducted a search of the premises with dogs.
Despite the fact that the storage area was well marked as a WFP warehouse – with a large WFP flag and 3 WFP stickers on the doors – the soldiers proceeded to destroy the doors of the warehouse using tanks. The owner of the building witnessed dynamite sticks being placed in various parts of the building and at approximately midnight, several blasts were heard, followed by a large explosion from a projectile dropped from a helicopter. The building collapsed and everything left in it, including 413 metric tones of wheat flour, 107 metric tonnes of rice and 17 metric tonnes of vegetable oil, was destroyed.
“This act has been carried out against basic humanitarian principles,” Mr. Siblot said. “WFP is asking the Government of Israel to conduct a thorough investigation of the incident and take full responsibility for the losses incurred by the agency.”