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UN cuts Gaza food aid after protest at local offices

world Updated: Apr 05, 2013 12:27 IST

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The United Nations said it has suspended food distribution to about 25,000 Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip, after demonstrators angry at aid cuts stormed a UN depot.

Dozens of Gazans forced their way into the field office of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) on Thursday, demanding reinstatement of a monthly cash allowance to poor families which was halted from April 1 due to UNRWA budget cuts.

The protesters were removed by UN security when they tried to break into a building, staff said.

"We fully understand the impact the decision to suspend cash assistance had on some of our beneficiaries," the agency said in a statement.

"Demonstrations during the past week had already forced UNRWA to close many of its facilities," it added.

"With the situation further compounded by today's actions, all relief and distribution centres will consequently remain closed until guarantees are given by all relevant groups that UNRWA operations can continue unhindered."

"This is a very regrettable situation for us to be in, as food distributions right now are taking place for some 25,000 refugees every day. But we cannot tolerate these ongoing threats to our staff," UNRWA said.

Abu Hussam, a 50-year-old jobless man at Friday's demonstration, was unrepentant.

"We shall continue our protests," he said.