UNRWA response to Jerusalem Post article

25 October 2010

25 October 2010

Dear Sir,

UNRWA response to Jerusalem Post articleYour story of Friday, “No to UNRWA school near Hamas base”, should have been headlined “No to UNRWA schools replacing former Hamas base”.

The Israeli authorities are denying UNRWA permission to build two schools in a heavily built-up residential area of Gaza City allegedly because the site of the proposed schools is next to a Hamas installation. This is completely false.

In fact there was a pre-Cast Lead Hamas base at the site in question (a former Palestinian Authority security base) which was completely destroyed by Israeli air strikes in Cast Lead. When UNRWA subsequently, and with the support of the local community, made plans to build the two new schools and secured the site, Hamas removed the last makeshift shack they had established adjacent to the area.

This is another example of your reporter, Yaakov Katz, being fed false information by Israeli military sources, which is then used as a pretext for blocking UNRWA’s essential human development work in Gaza. Last year, Mr Katz falsely reported that Hamas had stolen UNRWA ambulances. Your paper subsequently printed the correct version of the story, after I provided photographs of the ambulances safely in the UNRWA compound in Gaza.

UNRWA response to Jerusalem Post articleAgain, I provide photographs of the site totally destroyed by the Israeli military as well as photos of the surrounding areas clearly showing them to be residential. I challenge Mr Katz to provide UNRWA and your readers with the exact address and current photographs of the alleged “Hamas military installation”. If he fails to do this, he must stand guilty of being used by his IDF sources yet again of purveying falsehoods about UNRWA’s humanitarian work in Gaza; work which, as I have argued many times in these pages, is in Israel’s interests.

There are over 5,000 children seeking an UNRWA education in the area of Gaza in question and because of the unavailability of land and building materials, there is not a single UNRWA school there. The destruction of the former security base presented an opportunity to build two new schools on the site of a former Hamas military facility. What an extraordinary irony that this project is now being obstructed by Israeli officials. Already 39,000 children in Gaza are being denied a United Nations education. With this regrettable episode, that number has now climbed to 44,000.

Yours faithfully,

Chris Gunness,
UNRWA Spokesperson

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$ 81 million.

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