Masked gunmen torch UN summer camp in Gaza | world | Hindustan Times
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Masked gunmen torch UN summer camp in Gaza

Dozens of masked gunmen stormed a UN-run Gaza summer camp early on Sunday and burnt it to the ground, threatening "harsh measures" against the Gaza director of the UN refugee agency.

world Updated: May 23, 2010 14:31 IST

Dozens of masked gunmen stormed a UN-run Gaza summer camp early on Sunday and burnt it to the ground, threatening "harsh measures" against the Gaza director of the UN refugee agency.

The attackers assaulted a guard, tied him up and left a letter with four bullets threatening UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Gaza director John Ging, according to agency spokesman Adnan Abu Hasna.

"The armed men torched the camp, which contained recreational equipment and (plastic) swimming pools, and completely destroyed it," Abu Hasna said, adding that UNRWA had planned to open the camp in the middle of next month.

Abu Hasna said the gunmen blocked Gaza's main coastal highway before destroying the facility, one of the largest of several summer camps across the territory catering to some 250,000 Palestinian refugee children.

No known group claimed the attack, but it appeared to have been carried out by Islamic extremists who have attacked Western symbols in Gaza in the past and are opposed to the camps because they allow boys and girls to mingle.

Gaza's Hamas-run police force was investigating the incident, and Interior Ministry spokesman Ihab al-Ghussein said "the action is strongly condemned and those behind it will be held accountable."

Hamas has done little to impose Islamic law in Gaza, but smaller and more radical groups have carried out a string of bombings in beauty parlours, coffee shops and Internet cafes.

UNRWA provides food aid, education and health services to Gaza's more than one million registered Palestinian refugees, two thirds of the population of the impoverished coastal strip.

It has been a key source of humanitarian aid to the territory since Israel and Egypt tightened border closures in the wake of the Islamist Hamas movement's violent takeover of the territory in June 2007.