UN, EU officials condemn 'escalation' of violence against UNRWA

AFP , Saturday 11 May 2024

United Nations and European officials Friday condemned Israeli attacks against the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) in east Jerusalem, which have forced it to temporarily close its headquarters.

File photo
UNRWA. Reuters file photo


"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.



Earlier Germany's foreign ministry called out the "escalation of violent protest" and said on X that "Israel must ensure the protection of UN facilities and personnel in the occupied Palestinian territories".

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



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".


Site closed

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini announced Thursday the temporary closure of the site after Israelis set fire to its perimeter in the latest in a series of attacks.

"This took place while UNRWA and other UN Agencies’ staff were on the compound," Lazzarini said on X, noting that while there were no casualties, the blaze caused extensive damage to the outdoor area.

"This is an outrageous development. Once again, the lives of UN staff were at a serious risk," he added.



The attack came after two months of protests by "Israeli extremists" outside the compound, with one earlier this week turning violent when demonstrators threw stones, he said.

A spokesperson for UNRWA, Juliette Touma, told AFP on Friday that the site remains "closed until proper security is restored" and said it was unknown how long that would take.

The Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Saudi Arabia were among those who had already condemned the arson attack.

UNRWA, which coordinates nearly all aid to Gaza, has been in crisis since January when Israel accused about a dozen of the agency's 13,000 Gaza employees of involvement in the October 7 Hamas offensive, allegations that have since been debunked.

The baseless accusations led many nations, including top donor the United States, to abruptly suspend funding to the agency, threatening its efforts to deliver aid in Gaza, although several have since resumed payments.

An independent review of UNRWA, led by French former foreign minister Colonna, found some "neutrality-related issues" but said Israel had yet to provide evidence for its leading allegations.

Created in 1949, the agency employs around 30,000 people in the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Israel's seven-month war has killed more than 34,900 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Gaza health ministry.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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