JERUSALEM – Israel on Saturday rejected a request by the U.N. for a three-day cease-fire in Lebanon to deliver humanitarian supplies and allow civilians to leave the war zone.
Avi Pazner, a government spokesman, said Israel already has opened safe corridors across Lebanon for such shipments and that Hezbollah guerrillas were blocking them to create a humanitarian crisis.
“There is no need for a temporary, 72-hour cease-fire because Israel has opened humanitarian corridors to and from and Lebanon,” he told reporters.
“The problem is completely different. It is Hezbollah who is deliberately preventing the transfer of medical aid and of food to the population of southern Lebanon in order to create a humanitarian crisis, which they want to blame Israel for,” he added.
Jan Egeland, the U.N. humanitarian chief, on Friday called for a three-day truce between Israel and Hezbollah to evacuate trapped civilians and replenish supplies to areas cut off by the fighting. He said thousands of children, elderly and disabled had been stranded after more than two weeks of fighting, while supplies of food and medicines were dwindling.
Meanwhile, relief aid continued to arrive by air and sea on Saturday.
U.S. Navy high-speed HSV-2 catamaran arrived at the Beirut port from Cyprus bringing 20,000 blankets, 1,000 tarpaulins, large medical kits and other materials for immediate distribution, said a spokeswoman for the international aid organization Mercy Corp.
Cassandra Nelson said the materials will be sent to the mountainous Chouf area east of Beirut, where the group has assisted refugees. More aid was expected to arrive later and the group hopes to send it to southern Lebanon, she said.
Egyptian and Jordanian military transport planes also arrived at Beirut’s airport with medicine, food and medical teams, while a third plane brought 40 tons of food and medical supplies from the United Arab Emirates.