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Published:February 4th, 2009 10:38 EST

Hamas steals relief from refugees, says UN

By SOP newswire

The United Nations says the Palestinian militant group Hamas has seized blankets and food meant for hundreds of civilian families in the Gaza Strip.

The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, Wednesday said Hamas police raided a warehouse in Gaza City on Tuesday and took 3,500 blankets and more than 400 food parcels that were intended for distribution to civilians.

The United Nations has appealed to the international community for some $613 million in aid for the people of Gaza in the wake of Israel`s three-week military campaign against the territory`s Hamas rulers.

U.N. officials say more than 1,300 Palestinians were killed in the Israeli offensive, which caused widespread destruction in the heavily populated Gaza Strip. Thirteen Israelis were killed by Hamas rocket attacks.

On Tuesday, Israeli warplanes bombed tunnels crossing the border into Gaza from Egypt, after a rocket was fired from Gaza at the Israeli town of Ashkelon. Israel reported no injuries from the rocket attack.

A Hamas delegation met with Egyptian mediators in Cairo Tuesday and said the group was ready to commit to a truce with Israel for at least a year, in exchange for the full opening of Gaza`s borders.

Israel and Hamas stopped major combat two weeks ago, but sporadic attacks continue.

Hamas has not claimed responsibility for any attacks since the fighting stopped. It is urging all Palestinian factions to "respect the national consensus" on the cease-fire.

Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to crush Hamas if he is elected prime minister in next week`s Israeli elections.

Mr. Netanyahu is a former prime minister and the frontrunner in the race to replace Israeli leader Ehud Olmert.

With just seven days left until the election, the outcome of the war has become a central issue in the campaign.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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