On Monday, the Kerem Shalom crossing was opened for the delivery of humanitarian supplies to Gaza, including some 50 trucks with supplies provided by UNRWA. The night before, UNRWA had asked the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration to permit the transfer of paper and plastic bags to Gaza, and had been told the request was under consideration.UNRWA is now deciding that it alone decides the priority of goods entering Gaza. Apparently, paper and plastic bags for schools are more important than fuel and food for everyone, which we are hearing is still in short supply.
Despite not having received approval, UNRWA, COGAT officials said, drove several trucks carrying the supplies from Jerusalem to the crossing and coordinated their arrival with several media outlets, which filmed the trucks being turned away.
COGAT Spokesman Maj. Peter Lerner called the incident a "regretful provocation" by the UNRWA spokesman's office and added that while Israel may eventually approve the transfer of office supplies to Gaza, it was currently focusing on humanitarian aid.
"UNRWA receives preferential treatment at the crossings, and today alone 50 of its trucks were allowed in," Lerner said.
"What was done was wrong and not in accordance with the working relationship that Israel has with UNRWA."
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said the organization's schools in Gaza, which opened last week, only had 60 percent of the needed textbooks and that the paper was needed to fill the gap.
"We are running schools for 200,000 kids in Gaza and we have said for weeks that we would need to get it in, and it is entirely predictable since our school term starts at a certain time and therefore it is really strange that anybody should be surprised that we raised this issue," Gunness said.
Instead of an apology for trying to smuggle in goods that have not been approved and staging a media stunt meant to embarrass Israel, our old friend Chris is saying to the Israelis that he really considers them beneath contempt and that he knows best, that Israel's security concerns are meaningless, that the continued rockets into Israel are less important than the sacred UNRWA school year where teachers can pass on their hatred of Israel to the next generation.
UN Humanitarian chief John Holmes, who is not a part of UNRWA, notably does not deny that some aid to Gaza may have been stolen by Hamas as Gunness has:
UN humanitarian chief John Holmes said he was unaware of any instances in which international aid had been misappropriated. But he told reporters in Geneva at the launch of the UN's $613 million emergency appeal for the Palestinian territory that there have been stories about aid getting diverted to Hamas.Holmes is trying to work with Israel to allay concerns about misallocation of aid. However, UNRWA is telling Israel that it simply never happens, that the huge network of bunkers that Hamas built with cement that Israel had previously allowed in don't exist, that Qassam rockets built with pipes that Israel had previously allowed in don't exist, that the UNRWA is omnipotent and benevolent.
"There are concerns by Israel in particular about things like construction materials, cement, pipes [and] other kinds of equipment which they believe could be diverted to military uses," Holmes said, mentioning the construction of bunkers or rocket launchers.
Holmes said the improved audits would be part of the UN's effort to convince Israel to fully reopen its crossing points with Gaza, so that humanitarian aid and commercial goods could be brought in, along with cash so salaries could be paid.
The divergence of rhetoric between UNRWA and John Holmes also indicates that perhaps the UN is not as fully behind UNRWA as one would think.
The all-knowing UNRWA did admit a mistake yesterday:
While correctly reported on 6 January that Israeli shells landed outside an UNRWA school in Jabalia, resulting in an initial estimate of 30 fatalities, the Situation Report of 7 January referred to 'the shelling of the UNRWA school in Jabalia.' The Humanitarian Coordinator would like to clarify that the shelling, and all of the fatalities, took place outside rather than inside the school. According to UNRWA, the number of fatalities is over 40, many of them among the 1,368 people who had taken refuge in the school.