Food Scarce In Some Palestinian Refugee Camps
Jan. 18, 1988
JABALIYA, Occupied Gaza Strip (AP) _ One day after the Israeli army barred U.N. trucks with fruit and vegetables from this refugee camp, Farida Zidan and her six children ate the last of their food supplies: tea and pita bread.
''We had food for today, now it is finished,'' Mrs. Zidan, 45, said Sunday, holding an empty cooking oil bottle upside down to illustrate her point. ''The last time we ate meat was in November. Fruit, we don't even see it.''
Israeli army officers deny they are trying to starve the Palestinians into submission. Their tactic appears aimed at preventing Palestinians from going to their jobs, and storekeepers from earning revenue, in the belief that this will motivate the breadwinners to make the militants call a truce.
Since Dec. 8, the army has killed at least 36 Palestinians during persisten unrest in the occupied lands. No violence was reported Sunday, however.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the main Western relief group operating in Gaza, reports critical shortages of food, fuel and medical supplies in all eight refugee camps, now under at least partial curfew.
The army said curfews were removed Sunday from the West Bank's 15 refugee camps and remained in force only in the village of Salfit, 15 miles north of Jerusalem. Israel Television said similar clampdowns on the eight camps in the Gaza Strip also would be lifted soon, but no date was given.
''People are not starving yet, but there is real hunger inside the camps. When we do get inside, people ask us for flour, for sugar, for milk, even for water,'' Angela Williams, acting director of agency in Gaza, said Sunday.
A military spokesman said troops have turned away U.N. supplies during curfews but blamed U.N. officials for failing to coordinate with the army.
Some relief ''officials didn't coordinate as they should have and they didn't get in. It requires close coordination and the army calls the shots,'' he said on condition of anonymity in keeping with military regulations.
On Sunday, the 60,000 residents of Jabaliya, Gaza's largest refugee camp, endured the ninth day of a curfew that bars them from leaving their homes.
Mrs. Williams told The Associated Press the army has turned away U.N. trucks without giving reasons and has failed to honor agreements to lift curfews to let supplies in.
''One day we were allowed to bring bread into the Bureij camp but not fruit and vegetables. Another time the staff was allowed in, but no food. There are never any reasons given,'' Mrs. Williams said. ''It's the unpredictability that's so difficult. We should not have to negotiate every time.''
The Bureij camp area commander, a colonel named Avi, strongly denied any refugee was deprived of basic needs.
''There are no problems with food inside Bureij,'' he said. ''We have brought them kerosene to heat the food, gasoline to heat their homes.''
He said: ''I don't tell them (the relief agency) when the curfew is going to be lifted because ... the situation changes every day. If maybe women tell me they need milk, I send a car out to get milk.''
Asked about complaints the army stops U.N. trucks coming to stock supplies, he said: ''Whoever said that is just a liar. Everyone who has a problem, the problem is solved.''
Mrs. Williams said the army informed her the curfew at Jabaliya and Beach camps would be lifted for an hour four days ago but an AP reporter saw soldiers turn back U.N. supply trucks filled with bread and vegetables from both camps.
The U.N. changed tactics Sunday and sent its trucks to each of Gaza's refugee camps for the entire day to see if they could get in. Trucks were able to enter at least two camps, Mrs. Williams said.
Mrs. Williams said the curfews have disrupted U.N. feeding programs for 8,000 refugee children between the ages of 3 and 10 years old.
She said less than 20 percent of the children eligible for a daily meal of pita, canned beef and carrots receive it on any given day.
At Deir El-Balah camp, Aisha Madhi, 41, told the AP on Sunday she had only half a sack of flour and a few tomatoes left to feed her family of 12.
''Since the curfew, we have had no kerosene to cook food. We have no gas to heat our house,'' she said. ''There is no milk. We are all very, very hungry.''
AP reporter Jocelyn Noveck watched hundreds of Palestinian refugees stream into the main street of Beach camp to get food when the army lifted an eight- day curfew for an hour Saturday. She saw two Arab women arguing animatedly in Arabic over who would get the last potato left in a box.