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Shelter for families blocked at Gaza border

By Donald McIntyre

Israel has refused for eight months to allow into Gaza 488 prefabricated buildings donated by Turkey to house families whose homes were destroyed in last winter's three-week military offensive.

Despite applying for permits in February, the Turkish Red Crescent has been unable to ship in the homes, which it says are intended to accommodate Palestinian civilians who are among the estimated 20,000 still homeless as a result of the war.

While a majority of those are living in overcrowded temporary accommodation or with relatives, the Red Crescent said that others were living in tents, the wreckage of their destroyed buildings or a cemetery.

There is no evidence that the bar is connected with recent political tensions between Israel and Turkey, which has strongly criticised the military offensive. The Red Crescent said it was still waiting for an official response from the Ministry of Defence Co-ordinator of Government Activity in the Territories to its request for a permit.

Kazim Yilmaz, head of the Turkish Red Crescent Office in Jerusalem, said that it had been given no information as to why the housing units had so far been blocked. "They don't say yes and they don't say no," he said. The approach of winter made the need to erect the units all the more urgent, he said; 256 of them were housing units designed for families of four, the rest being bathroom and kitchen units.

He added that if the Israeli authorities were worried the units might be sequestered by Hamas, the agency had 20 staff in Gaza equipped to ensure that they reached the homes of designated families in need of accommodation.

Source: Independent

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