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UN agency shuts down east Jerusalem HQ after ‘Israeli extremist’ arson attack

The latest arson attempts marked “an outrageous development”, the head of the agency, Philippe Lazzarini said.

Screenshot 2024 05 11 102540ISRAEL: The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said Thursday it was temporarily shuttering its east Jerusalem headquarters after “Israeli extremists” set fire to the perimeter following weeks of repeated attacks.

The attack came after two months of “Israeli extremists staging protests outside the UNRWA compound”, he said. One protest this week “became violent when demonstrators threw stones at UN staff and at the buildings of the compound”.In recent months, according to The Guardian, hundreds of Israeli settlers and rightwing activists have protested by blocking the entrances of the UN agency and calling for its closure.

Thursday’s arson attempts marked “an outrageous development”, the head of the agency, Philippe Lazzarini said. He added: “Once again, the lives of UN staff were at a serious risk. In light of this second appalling incident in less than a week, I have taken the decision to close down our compound until proper security is restored.”

The UNRWA chief said: “Over the past months, UN staff have regularly been subjected to harassment and intimidation. Our compound has been seriously vandalised and damaged. On several occasions, Israeli extremists threatened our staff with guns.”

UNRWA, which coordinates nearly all aid to Gaza, has been in crisis since January when Israel accused about a dozen of its 13,000 Gaza employees of being involved in the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, Al Arabia reports.

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

An independent review group of UNRWA, led by French former foreign minister Catherine Colonna, found some “neutrality-related issues” but said Israel had yet to provide evidence for its chief allegations, Al Arabia added.

Qatar’s foreign ministry issued a statement Thursday condemning “in the strongest terms the attack by Israeli settlers on the UNRWA headquarters”.

The ministry slammed the “systematic Israeli targeting of UNRWA”, maintaining it was aimed “to liquidate it and deprive millions of Palestinians of its necessary services”.

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

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