Israel kidnaps Palestinian Deputy PM (19 Aug 2006)

(19 August 2006) - ISRAELI forces have seized Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Nasser Al Shaer, a top official of the ruling Party Hamas, at his home in the West Bank town of Ramallah, his wife and Palestinian officials said.

Israeli troops went to Al Shaer's home early Saturday, his wife Huda was quoted as saying.

Mr. Shaer's wife told Reuters that "several jeeps circled the house before dawn" then troops came to the door.

Two Hamas lawmakers confirmed the capture of Al Shaer by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF).

The Israeli army also confirmed Al Shaer's seizure, claiming it was "due to his membership in a terrorist organization."

Israel has detained more than two dozen Hamas lawmakers and several other cabinet ministers since the brutal offensive it launched in Gaza Strip last June, claiming it's aimed at releasing Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit held by a group of Palestinian fighters representing several resistance groups in Palestine last June.

* Condemnation

Saeb Erekat, the top Palestinian negotiator, condemned Al Shaer's capture by the Israeli forces, saying it will only "complicate" efforts by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to forge a Palestinian unity government, in an attempt to ease a Western aid embargo against the Hamas-led government.

The great victory for Hamas movement in the Palestinian elections last January prompted American-European government's freeze of the once steady aid money sent to the Palestinian government, to force it acknowledge the State of Israel.

When the newly-formed Hamas-led government refused to bow to the American-European demands, the American and Canadian governments, as well the European Union decided to cut financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, a measure, which went at the cost of the already devastated Palestinian population, since at least 45 % of the population [there are also reports about a higher poverty-rate varying until 70 %] is living below the poverty-rate and 15% is even living in extreme poverty.

* Aid held up

Massive number of containers carrying food for Palestinians in Gaza is still being held up in the Israeli port of Ashdod due to a backlog caused by the recent fighting in Lebanon that closed the port of Haifa.

According to Stephane Dujarric, UN spokesman, about 300 containers carrying emergency food for Gaza are stuck on ships in Ashdod.

"That backlog is connected to the fact that a lot of these containers had to be redirected there from Haifa, which had been closed due to the fighting. Currently, some 830,000 people rely on UNRWA's Gaza food distributions."

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) managed to secure vaccines for Palestinian children through 2007, as well as education supplies for its back-to-school campaign.

The UN Children's Fund also supplied its humanitarian partners in Gaza with eight generators and five water tankers. It also stepped up its mine-awareness education and psychosocial assistance programmes, Mr. Dujarric further stated.


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