Thursday, January 8, 2009

Israeli Troops Kill U.N. Worker

"Israel fires on UN Gaza convoy

At least one Palestinian has been killed after a UN relief agency convoy came under fire from Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip, officials say.

The attack took place on Thursday as the lorries travelled to the Erez crossing to pick up supplies that were to have been allowed in during a three-hour ceasefire.

John Ging, the head of the UN relief agency in Gaza, said that the casualties were Palestinian civilian contractors contracted to bring supplies from the crossing points.

"They were co-ordinating their movements with the Israelis, as they always do, only to find themselves being fired at from the ground troops," he told Al Jazeera.

"It has resulted tragically in the death of one and the injury of two others."


At least 700 Palestinians, including 219 children, have died in Gaza since Israel began its assault on December 27. More than 3,080 people have also been wounded. Eight Israeli soldiers and three civilians have died in the same period....

The AFP news agency quoted witnesses as saying that dozens of Israeli tanks had entered southern Gaza and were heading towards Rafah. Fierce fighting was also reported between Palestinian fighters and Israeli soldiers around Khan Yunis.

It was unclear if the latest offensive was the "third stage" of the offensive approved by the Israeli security cabinet on Wednesday. A senior Israeli defence official said a meeting chaired by Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, had "approved continuing the ground offensive, including a third stage that would broaden it by pushing deeper into populated areas."

Meanwhile, Israeli security forces in the occupied West Bank shot dead a Palestinian in a confrontation at a Jewish settlement near Jerusalem, Israeli radio reported.


"Israeli troops kill U.N. truck driver at Gaza crossing

JERUSALEM — Israeli soldiers opened fire Thursday on a truck attempting to deliver humanitarian aid to the beleaguered Gaza Strip, killing one United Nations-contracted driver and seriously wounding another, U.N. officials said.

The shooting occurred at the Erez checkpoint, the main entrance used by relief agencies to funnel badly needed food and medical supplies into Gaza, where Israel is waging a devastating, 13-day-long military campaign against the militant Islamic group Hamas.

U.N. officials said that they had contracted the truck to deliver supplies into Gaza, and that the Israeli military had approved the delivery. But Israeli ground troops, which control the Erez checkpoint, fired on the truck. It wasn’t clear what caused the Israeli soldiers to open fire, and Israeli military officials weren't immediately available for comment.

Relief officials said that as a result of the shooting, Israel closed the Erez checkpoint. It was unclear whether any relief trucks would be allowed to enter Gaza on Thursday, despite what humanitarian agencies describe as a worsening humanitarian crisis.

"It's a tragic example of how impossible it’s becoming to deliver assistance here," John Ging, the top U.N. refugee official in Gaza, told the Al Jazeera television network. "We cannot continue in these circumstances where aid workers…are being killed and injured, even when they are in direct coordination with the Israeli liaison people, who are supposed to ensure their safety."

It was at least the second time in recent days that Palestinian relief workers contracted by the U.N. had been killed. On Monday, Israeli shells landed near the parking lot of a Palestinian company contracted by the U.N. World Food Program to deliver food supplies in Gaza. Two employees were killed and three severely wounded, according to WFP spokeswomen Barbara Conte, who said that the relief workers were not the target of the Israeli strike....