Demonstrators today stormed the compound of the UNRWA Gaza Field Office in response to a programme cut necessitated by budget shortfalls. The incident is a dramatic and disturbing escalation in a series of demonstrations that have taken place over the past week.For years, UNRWA condemned Israel for closing the crossings to Gaza in response to deadly rocket fire and other attacks. The idea that Israeli citizens have the right to safety and security did not cross their minds - to them, Israel providing services to Gazans was more important than the mere lives of Israelis.
Commenting on today’s escalation and demonstrators breaking into UNRWA’s compound, the Gaza Director stressed that the Agency “respect people's right to peaceful demonstration but what happened today was completely unacceptable: the situation could very easily have resulted in serious injuries to UNRWA staff and to the demonstrators. This escalation, apparently pre-planned, was unwarranted and unprecedented". "These demonstrations affect our ability to provide much needed service to the Palestine refugees in Gaza and—because they also targeted the Gaza headquarters building—our operations in the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria."
Demonstrations during the past week had already forced UNRWA to close many of its facilities. With the situation further compounded by today's actions, all relief and distribution centers will consequently remain closed until guarantees are given by all relevant groups that UNRWA operations can continue unhindered. "This is a very regrettable situation for us to be in, as food distributions right now are taking place for some 25,000 refugees every day. But we cannot tolerate these ongoing threats to our staff: their safety is of crucial concern at the moment," added Turner. "Any other affected installations will also remain closed."
UNRWA calls on all the groups behind today's event to immediately stop inciting crowds at these demonstrations and to conduct themselves in a responsible manner.
But when their own facilities get violently attacked - and not with anything approaching deadly force, from what we can see - UNRWA immediately shuts down their own services to the very people they are tasked with helping, forever.
Just a little more UNRWA hypocrisy.