Basic foods in Gaza to run out within days: Palestinian official

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Ramallah_(dpa) _ Basic food products, notably flour, rice and sugar, are due to run out in the Gaza Strip in little more than one week unless international aid organizations are allowed to continue bringing in fresh supplies, senior Palestinian officials warned Wednesday.

Gaza's border crossings to the outside world, including the Rafah crossings with Egypt in the south, the Karni commercial passage in the centre and the Erez crossing in the north with Israel, have been closed since late last week when Hamas assumed full control over the Strip last Friday after five days of violent fighting with the rival Fatah party of President Mahmoud Abbas.

Gaza's 1.5 million residents need 450 tons of food each day and have enough in stock to last nine days, senior Fatah official Saeb Erekat told a news conference in Ramallah, held after Abbas placed him in charge of coordinating the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza with Israel via third-parties, including the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Red Cross.

Warning of a "catastrophe" in Gaza, he spoke of a "dire" economic situation in the Strip which was becoming "very serious."

He said Gaza needed 11 tons of sugar a day and had enough left for seven days. The Strip consumes 77 tons of rice, with enough in stock to last eight days and flour was expected to run out in about one week as well.

Hospitals and medical facilities in the Strip meanwhile are also reporting a worsening lack of supplies, with Erekat putting their daily needs at 33 tons of drugs and medical equipment a day, while the WHO was now supplying only 8 tons daily, or about a quarter of that need.

Some 650 Palestinians have been injured in the Gaza internecine fighting, he said, adding that he contacted Israel to allow 55 of them who were in critical condition to receive medical treatment in Israeli hospitals.

"We don't have any control over the Rafah, Karni or Erez crossings," Erekat told a news conference in Ramallah. "There is no presence of the Palestinian Authority at any of these crossings," he said, referring to the fact that they were now in the hands of the unrecognized Hamas administration in Gaza.

Israel though has instructed the Israeli Dor Alon company to resume its supply of natural gas and petrol to the Strip, reducing fears of fuel shortages, while many fresh vegetables, including eggplants, cucumbers and tomatoes, are grown locally and therefore not lacking.

The Israeli military said in an announcement that it coordinated the entry of 22 containers carrying 200 tons of basic food products and 30 tons of medical supplies into Gaza on Tuesday. dpa mak ok pmc

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