UNRWA closes HQ in east Jerusalem after Israeli mob arson attack: Lazzarini

Ahram Online , Friday 10 May 2024

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini announced late Thursday that the agency was closing its occupied east Jerusalem headquarters after the latest in a series of increasingly violent attacks by Israeli extremists attempted to burn the UNRWA headquarters in east Jerusalem.

An ultra-Orthodox Israel child walks past the entrance of the headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in east Jerusalem after Israeli extremists reportedly set ablaze the perimeter of the building. AFP


Lazzarini announced its decision after posting on X that “Israeli residents set fire twice to the perimeter of the UNRWA Headquarters in occupied east Jerusalem.”

He said “This took place while UNRWA and other UN Agencies’ staff were on the compound. The lives of UN staff were at a serious risk.” 

Lazzarini said the compound would remain closed "until proper security is restored."

An Israeli mob chanted “Burn down the United Nations” as they besieged the HQ. 

The fire caused extensive damage to the outer areas of the building.



The recent attack on the UNRWA HQ comes after two months of violent protests by Israelis outside the compound.

Earlier this week, demonstrators threw stones at the building.

Arab states condemn

The Palestinian Authority condemned the attack by what it described as Israeli extremist militias, calling for action from the International community. 

Jordan also issued a scathing condemnation of the attack, calling on Israel to “assume its responsibility as the occupying power in Jerusalem,” and end rampant attacks and harassment on aid agencies. 

The Qatari foreign ministry decried the "systematic Israeli targeting of UNRWA," stating it was part of an attempt “to liquidate it (UNRWA) and deprive millions of Palestinians of its necessary services."

Saudi Arabia also condemned "the blatant attack by Israeli settlers," and maintained that "the Israeli occupation is responsible for the repeated crimes committed against unarmed civilians and workers in humanitarian and relief organizations."

In January, top donors to UNRWA, led by the US, suspended funding to the agency following unsubstantiated claims by Israel that 19 UNRWA staffers had been involved in the 7 October attack.

At the time, Lazzarini argued that the true motive behind Israeli calls for the dismantling of UNRWA was not rooted in humanitarian principles but an attempt to end the refugee status of millions of Palestinians.

He has maintained that Israel is waging a concerted campaign aimed at destroying the agency. 

A UN probe into the Israeli claims allegations that 19 members of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees participated in the October 7 operations has closed one case due to the absence of any evidence from Israel and suspended four others.

An independent review of UNRWA, led by French former foreign minister Catherine Colonna, said Israel had yet to provide evidence for its leading allegations.

Several donors have resumed their funding to the agency since.

UNRWA is the largest aid organization in Gaza, employing around 13,000 staff in the Gaza Strip.

International condemnation

United Nations and European officials Friday condemned attacks against the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in east Jerusalem, according to the AFP.

"I condemn the recent attack on UNRWA Headquarters in East Jerusalem. Targeting aid workers and humanitarian assets is unacceptable, and must stop," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on X, formerly Twitter, referring to Thursday's attack.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc also "strongly condemns the attack".

"It is Israel's responsibility to ensure the safety of humanitarian workers. UNRWA is an irreplaceable lifeline to millions in Gaza and the region," he said in a post on X.

Also on X, French diplomat Catherine Colonna called for the headquarters to be protected following the "unjustifiable violence" and said that the UNRWA "must be able to carry out its mission".

Germany also condemned Friday the "escalation of violent protest" against the UN agency for Palestinian refugees in east Jerusalem, which temporarily closed its headquarters there following repeated attacks.

"Israel must ensure the protection of UN facilities and personnel in the occupied Palestinian territories," the German foreign ministry said on X, formerly Twitter.

"The UN need to be able to serve their important mandate in Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem."

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