By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

UNRWA has verified that at least 192 employees have been killed in Gaza, with more than 170 UNRWA premises damaged or destroyed.

The head of the UN Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has slammed what he described as “a blatant disregard for the mission of the United Nations” in the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip.

This included “attacks on the employees, facilities and operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees,” Philippe Lazzarini, the agency’s Commissioner-General, wrote in The New York Times on Thursday.

“These attacks must stop and the world must act to hold the perpetrators accountable,” he stressed.

The UN chief noted that UNRWA has verified that at least 192 employees have been killed in Gaza, with more than 170 UNRWA premises damaged or destroyed.

In addition, UNRWA-run schools “have been demolished; some 450 displaced people have been killed while sheltered inside UNRWA schools and other structures.”

He wrote that since October 7, Israeli security forces have detained UNRWA personnel in Gaza, “who have alleged torture and mistreatment while in detention in the Strip and in Israel.”

‘Regularly Harassed’

UNRWA staff members, Lazzarini noted, “are regularly harassed and humiliated” at Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank including East Jerusalem.

He highlighted that UNRWA was not the only agency facing danger, with the World Food Programme and UNICEF vehicles having been hit by gunfire in April “apparently inadvertently but despite coordination with the Israeli authorities.”

Two arson attacks on the UNRWA compound in East Jerusalem have also occurred, and “a crowd including Israeli children gathered outside our premises singing ‘Let the U.N. burn’,” he said, adding that  at other times, “demonstrators threw stones.”

“Israeli officials are not only threatening the work of our staff and mission, they are also delegitimizing UNRWA by effectively characterizing it as a terrorist organization that fosters extremism and labeling U.N. leaders as terrorists who collude with Hamas,” Lazzarini wrote. “By doing so, they are creating a dangerous precedent of routine targeting of U.N. staff and premises.”

“How can this be possible? Where is the international outrage? Its absence is a license to disregard the United Nations and opens the door to impunity and chaos,” he asked.

Lazzarini explained that if such attacks are tolerated in the context of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, “we cannot uphold humanitarian principles in other conflicts around the world.”

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‘Tools for Peace’

This assault on the United Nations, he continued “will further diminish our tools for peace and defense against inhumanity around the world. It must not become the new norm.”

Earlier this year, Israel alleged that UNRWA workers were involved in the October 7 resistance operation, which led to several countries suspending their funding of the agency.

The UN launched an independent investigation into the allegations “against 19 out of 13,000 UNRWA staff members in Gaza,” wrote Lazzarini. “To date, one case was closed because there was no evidence. Four cases were suspended because the information was insufficient to proceed. Another 14 cases remain under investigation.”

He said, “It is unjust and dishonest to attack UNRWA’s mission on the basis of these allegations.”

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‘Independent Investigative Body’

The UN chief pointed out that the international community “has ways to address the committing of international crimes,” such as the International Criminal Court.

“However, the scale and scope of the attacks against U.N. personnel and premises in the occupied Palestinian territories in the last seven months merit the urgent establishment of a dedicated, independent investigative body, through a U.N. Security Council or General Assembly resolution, to ascertain the facts and identify those responsible for attacks on its agencies,” he said. “Such an investigative body can ensure accountability and, crucially, help to reaffirm the inviolability of international law.”

Lazzarini emphasized that UN institutions must be “meaningfully” defended.

“This can only be achieved through principled action by the nations of the world and a commitment by all to peace and justice.”

(The Palestine Chronicle)

The post ‘Attacks on Aid Agencies Must Stop, Hold Perpetrators Accountable’ – UNRWA Chief  appeared first on Palestine Chronicle.

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