UNRWA condemns the serious injuring of Hajj Suleiman of Umm al Kheir

10 January 2022
In this archival photograph from 2020, Hajj Suleiman (left) is seen with the Director of UNRWA Affairs in the West Bank, Ms. Gwyn Lewis (right) in Umm al-Kheir. © 2020 UNRWA Photo

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in the West Bank expresses its deep concern over the conduct of the Israeli Security Forces during an operation that led to the serious injury of Suleiman Eid Hathaleen, know as Hajj Suleiman, an elderly Palestine refugee community leader from Umm al Kheir in the South Hebron Hills, on 5 January 2022.

On the afternoon of 5 January, an operation of the Israeli Security Forces (ISF) to confiscate unregistered vehicles took place in the Umm al-Kheir area. The operation was protested by the local community and, when leaving the area, an Israeli truck transporting the confiscated vehicles rammed into Hajj Suleiman, drove over him and dragged his body for several meters without stopping. Hajj Suleiman had been peacefully protesting on the road used by the ISF vehicles and would have been clearly visible to both the truck driver and the officers in the ISF jeep present at the scene. After the incident, which left the elderly man seriously injured, there is no indication that the ISF troops on the ground offered assistance at any point, having simply left the area immediately after the incident.

Hajj Suleiman is well-known for his peaceful activism and support to local communities, both locally and to numerous visitors from around the world to Umm al Kheir. Due to ISF's actions, he is now in hospital in a critical condition and it is not yet certain if he will survive the multiple serious injuries he sustained.

The international standards for law enforcement officials are grounded in the respect and protection of human dignity, aimed to maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons. The conduct of the ISF shows an evident disregard for their responsibilities vis-à-vis internal law and standards. Moreover, as an occupying force, Israeli security forces are obligated to protect the lives and ensure the dignity of all Palestinians living under their control.

UNRWA calls on the ISF to urgently investigate the incident and hold accountable those found to have violated international standards, neglected their duties, and acted in violation of the law.

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 with a mandate to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to registered Palestine refugees in the Agency’s area of operations, namely the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. Thousands of Palestine refugees who lost both their homes and livelihood because of the 1948 conflict have remained displaced and in need of significant support for over seventy years. UNRWA helps them 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.

For more information, please contact:

Tamara Alrifai
UNRWA Spokesperson
+962 (0)79 090 0140