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

Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 68.2 million.

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