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U.N. may suspend Gaza operations

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GAZA CITY (CNN) -- The United Nations may be compelled to cease several critical operations in Gaza beginning Monday as a result of new movement restrictions imposed by Israel.

U.N. staff may stop entering or exiting Gaza through the Erez Crossing, the main entry/exit point into and out of Gaza, said Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for several U.N. agencies that have operations in Gaza.

Also beginning Monday, the U.N. Refugee Works Agency and the World Food Program could halt the delivery to Gaza of food shipments, which more than 700,000 people depend on, Abu Hasna said.

The spokesman said that the world body has enough food reserves in Gaza to last for several weeks.

In addition, UNICEF could halt a child immunization program and several other child health programs here.

The actions are being considered as a result of Israel's refusal to allow U.N. staff who do not have diplomatic passports from passing through the Erez Crossing in their vehicles.

Since a Palestinian attack on an Israeli checkpoint in early March, Israel has halted the passage of non-diplomatic vehicles at Erez.

As a result, all people attempting to enter or leave Gaza must walk through the workers' passage, an 800-meter covered passageway.

Abu Hasna said the crossing is the site of frequent gunfire and exposes U.N. workers to unnecessary risk.

Another reason for the possible suspension of selected U.N. activities relates to Israel's refusal to allow containers -- used to carry food shipments from the Israeli port of Ashdod into Gaza -- to be taken out of Gaza.

This has meant the United Nations has had to pay fines to the Israeli company that rents the containers.

Abu Hasna told CNN that Israeli officials had told U.N. officials that they hoped the container issue would be resolved within the coming days, but that no commitment has been made to modify procedures for passage through the Erez Crossing.

-- CNN Correspondent Ben Wedeman contributed to this report.

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