Over the past week, UNRWA has faced strong reactions in Gaza related to measures it had to take following severe reductions in funding by the United States, its single-largest donor. These financial cuts affected emergency operations and impacted a number of staff positions in both Gaza and West Bank.
UNRWA has stood firm in its defense of rights and dignity of Palestine refugees and has shown unparalleled energy and creativity in its attempt to overcome the critical risks to its ability to provide continued services to Palestine refugees. The Agency fully understands and recognizes that the adjustments made to its emergency services in the Gaza Strip are painful for the affected staff members and their extended families, particularly in the context of extreme hardship and anxiety in the Strip.
While it is legitimate for staff members to express their frustration and discontent, UNRWA firmly and unreservedly deplores and rejects a series of actions taken by some of the protesting staff. We denounce the actions to prevent senior management from accessing the compound. At this stage, the premises remain unsafe for access and use; the conduct of the protesters within the premises is beyond our control.
In particular, we strongly condemn the burning of effigies of UNRWA leadership, the expression of threats, the circulating of offensive images of staff and the staging of unauthorized events in UNRWA installations. These actions are shameful and nothing can justify them.
On 23 July, an improvised explosive device was detonated inside the UNRWA compound in Gaza during a protest action. Lives were put at serious risk and some property was damaged. UNRWA condemns this criminal act and an investigation is underway.
The normal functioning of UNRWA operations must be reestablished in Gaza. UNRWA serves over 1 million Palestine refugees in Gaza and we cannot accept that our humanitarian activities be disrupted by irresponsible actions. Protests must be properly managed and dignified. Full security for management and staff must be guaranteed. Our priority is to serve the Refugee community and the human dimension of our work must be safeguarded.