UN, EU officials condemn 'escalation' of violence by Israel against UNRWA in Jerusalem | World News - Hindustan Times
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UN, EU officials condemn 'escalation' of violence by Israel against UNRWA in Jerusalem

AFP |
May 10, 2024 07:50 PM IST

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said on Thursday the temporary closure of the site after Israelis set fire to its perimeter in the latest in a series of attacks.

United Nations and European officials Friday condemned attacks against the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) in east Jerusalem, which have forced it to temporarily close its headquarters.

Traces of a fire are visible as an ultra-Orthodox Israel man walks past the headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). (AFP)
Traces of a fire are visible as an ultra-Orthodox Israel man walks past the headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). (AFP)

"I condemn the recent attack on UNRWA Headquarters in East Jerusalem. Targeting aid workers and humanitarian assets is unacceptable, and must stop," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on X, formerly Twitter, referring to Thursday's attack.

Earlier Germany's foreign ministry called out the "escalation of violent protest" and said on X that "Israel must ensure the protection of UN facilities and personnel in the occupied Palestinian territories".

"The UN need to be able to serve their important mandate in Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem," the ministry added.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc also "strongly condemns the attack".

"It is Israel's responsibility to ensure the safety of humanitarian workers. UNRWA is an irreplaceable lifeline to millions in Gaza and the region," he said in a post on X.

Also on X, French diplomat Catherine Colonna called for the headquarters to be protected following the "unjustifiable violence" and said that the UNRWA "must be able to carry out its mission".

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UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini announced Thursday the temporary closure of the site after Israelis set fire to its perimeter in the latest in a series of attacks.

While there were no casualties, he said the blaze caused extensive damage to the outdoor area.

It came after two months of protests by "Israeli extremists" outside the compound, with one earlier this week turning violent when demonstrators threw stones, he said.

A spokesperson for UNRWA, Juliette Touma, told AFP on Friday that the site remains "closed until proper security is restored" and said it was unknown how long that would take.

The Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Saudi Arabia were among those who had already condemned the arson attack.

Germany is a key supporter of Israel, offering staunch backing since the October 7 attack by Hamas that triggered the war in the Gaza Strip.

But as the conflict has ground on, Berlin has increasingly voiced criticism, calling for more humanitarian aid to be allowed into war-ravaged Gaza.

UNRWA, which coordinates nearly all aid to Gaza, has been in crisis since January, when Israel accused about a dozen of its 13,000 Gaza employees of being involved in the October attack.

That led many nations, including top donor the United States, to abruptly suspend funding to the agency, threatening its efforts to deliver aid in Gaza, although several have since resumed payments.

An independent review of UNRWA, led by French former foreign minister Colonna, found some "neutrality-related issues" but said Israel had yet to provide evidence for its leading allegations.

Created in 1949, the agency employs around 30,000 people in the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Gaza's bloodiest-ever war began following Hamas's unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel has conducted a retaliatory offensive that has killed more than 34,900 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

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