Statement by John Ging, UNRWA Director of Operations in Gaza

07 January 2009

7 January 2009

Gaza

Speaking on a visit to the UNRWA-run Al-Fakhura school in Jabalia, where an Israeli strike killed over 40 people on Tuesday:

"There‘s nowhere safe in Gaza. Everyone here is terrorized and traumatized. These men, women and children are all seeking safety and there is no safety in Gaza at the moment, even in an UNRWA school. This is unacceptable.

I sincerely hope that for the sake of those who have died that it will not have been in vain, that it will spur everybody into more immediate action to get this cease-fire agreed and just stop horrific violence.

Today is better than yesterday but we have only three hours. That means we have 21 hours of terror. I want 24 hours of ceasefire, we want a full ceasefire."

On the allegation that Israeli troops came under fire from inside the school, Ging added:

"I have been reassured by my own staff that there were no militants in the schools. If anybody has evidence to the contrary, then let‘s bring it forward

The school was clearly marked as a UN building and GPS coordinates for the site had been provided to Israeli forces.

Today I have talked to the witnesses and I was humbled by their dignity. They were so stoic in the face of such a stressful circumstance, and they still believe in the U.N."

Background Information

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s Programme Budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.

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