UN relief aid for south Lebanon frozen

Date: 08-08-06

GENEVA (AFP) - UN relief aid in southern Lebanon has been completely frozen despite Israeli assurances that humanitarian convoys would be excluded from attack warnings on any moving vehicle south of the Litani River, aid agencies have said.

Further deliveries of urgently needed supplies to towns and villages in south Lebanon were on hold, said Christiane Berthiaume, a spokeswoman for the UN World Food Programme (WFP), Tuesday.

"Due to the insecurity, there will not be a convoy to the south today," she told journalists.

The Israeli military on Tuesday dropped leaflets warning it would strike any vehicle, "whatever its nature", travelling south of the Litani river on suspicion of transporting weapons.

"The Israelis have excluded the humanitarian convoys, but we took the decision based on security concerns not to go to the south," Berthiaume told AFP later.

Supplies managed to get through in the south in recent days, but on at least two occasions other vehicles just 30 metres (33 yards) away were struck by missiles, according to the WFP.

A UN reconnaissance mission would examine the chances of crossing the Litani river on Wednesday, Berthiaume said.

A convoy has been scheduled Wednesday for Sidon and Nabatiyeh, which lie north of the Litani.

"We would need at least two convoys a day in the south -- that's the strict minimum -- and six a day for it to be good, and we're far off that," Berthiaume said.

Wivina Belmonte, a spokeswoman for the UN children's fund, UNICEF, said: "Nearly one month into the conflict, there are two words that sum up where the humanitarian situation is: it's just 'not enough'."

The UN agencies said trucks carrying relief supplies were ready to roll from Syria into northern Lebanon and Beirut Tuesday, for the first time since a key route was cut by air raids several days ago.

"It is important the convoy gets through as our warehouse supplies in Beirut are dwindling to alarming levels," said Jennifer Pagonis, a spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency.

The WFP said it was considering trying to ferry supplies to the southwestern port city of Tyre, which was cut off, by boat.

However, a ship full of supplies destined for Tyre was "red-lighted" by Israel at the weekend, an official for the International Committee of the Red Cross in the city, Roland Huguenin, said.

A French military transport aircraft took up a regular food supply flight into Beirut Monday, while a Greek freighter was loading supplies from a UN warehouse in the Italian port of Brindisi, Berthiaume said.

Another ship was due to leave the French port of Marseilles this week.


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