This evening, Israeli residents set fire twice to the perimeter of the UNRWA Headquarters in occupied East Jerusalem

09 May 2024

From Philippe Lazzarini, the UNRWA Commissioner General as posted on his official X account (previously known as Twitter)

This evening, Israeli residents set fire twice to the perimeter of the UNRWA Headquarters in occupied East Jerusalem.

This took place while UNRWA and other UN Agencies’ staff were on the compound.

While there were no casualties among our staff, the fire caused extensive damage to the outdoor areas. The UNRWA headquarters has on its grounds a petrol and diesel station for the Agency’s fleet of cars.

Our director with the help of other staff had to put out the fire themselves as it took the Israeli fire extinguishers and police a while before they turned up.

A crowd accompanied by armed men were witnessed outside the compound chanting “Burn down the United Nations” (see video below from Israeli media).

This is an outrageous development. 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 coumpound until proper security is restored.

Over the past two months, Israeli extremists have been staging protests outside the UNRWA compound in Jerusalem, called by an elected member of the Jerusalem municipality.

This week, the protest became violent when demonstrators threw stones at UN staff and at the buildings of the compound.

Over the past months, UN staff have regularly been subjected to harassment and intimidation. Our compound has been seriously vandalized and damaged.

On several occasions, Israeli extremists threatened our staff with guns.

It is the responsibility of the State of Israel as an occupying power to ensure that United Nations personnel and facilities are protected at all times.

UN staff, premises and operations  should be protected at all times in line with international law.

I call on all those who have influence to put an end to these attacks and hold all those responsible accountable.

The perpetrators of these attacks must be investigated and those responsible must be held accountable.

Anything less will set a new dangerous standard.

Background Information: 

UNRWA is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. The United Nations General Assembly established UNRWA in 1949 with a mandate to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to registered Palestine refugees in the Agency’s area of operations pending a just and lasting solution to their plight.

UNRWA operates in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, The Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. 

Tens of thousands of Palestine refugees who lost their homes and livelihoods due to the 1948 conflict continue to be displaced and in need of support, nearly 75 years on.

UNRWA helps Palestine Refugees achieve their full potential in human development through quality services it provides in education, health care, relief and social services, protection, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance, and emergency assistance. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions.

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