By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

The head of UNRWA decided to temporarily close the Agency’s headquarters in occupied Jerusalem after the arson attack.

Illegal Jewish settlers set fire on Thursday night to trees and grass lawns at the premises of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of occupied Jerusalem.

Eyewitnesses reported that UNRWA staff succeeded in putting the fire out and prevented it from spreading to the UNRWA buildings.

The official Palestinian news agency WAFA also cited eyewitnesses as saying that the Israeli police did nothing to stop the attack.

Two days ago, groups of settlers attacked the UNRWA headquarters in occupied Jerusalem. UNRWA described the incident as “intimidation, vandalism and damage.”

Temporary Closure

The head of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) decided to temporarily close the Agency’s headquarters in occupied Jerusalem after the arson attack.

Posting on social media, Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said that “Israeli residents set fire twice to the perimeter” on Thursday evening.  

UNRWA personnel and staff from other UN agencies were inside the compound at the time.

“Our director with the help of other staff had to put out the fire themselves as it took the Israeli fire extinguishers and police a while before they turned up,” Lazzarini added. 

This marked “the second appalling incident in less than a week” following a similar violent protest on Tuesday.

While there were no casualties among UNRWA staff, the fire caused extensive damage to the outdoor areas, he said, noting that a petrol and diesel station is on the grounds to service the agency’s fleet of cars.

A crowd accompanied by armed Jewish settlers were witnessed outside the compound chanting “burn down the United Nations,” he added.

“This is an outrageous development,” he said. “Once again, the lives of UN staff were at serious risk.”  

Lazzarini said he has taken the decision to close down the compound “until proper security is restored”. 

Harassment, Intimidation

Israeli settlers have been staging protests outside the UNRWA compound in Jerusalem over the past two months.

Lazzarini noted that Tuesday’s protest had turned violent when demonstrators threw stones at UN staff and at the buildings, “under the watch of the Israeli police.”

“Over the past months, UN staff have regularly been subjected to harassment and intimidation. Our compound has been seriously vandalized and damaged. On several occasions, Israeli extremists threatened our staff with guns,” he said.

The UNRWA chief stressed that it is the responsibility of Israel as the occupying power to ensure that UN personnel and facilities are protected at all times. 

“I call on all those who have influence to put an end to these attacks and hold all those responsible accountable,” he said.  “The perpetrators of these attacks must be investigated and those responsible must be held accountable. Anything less will set a new dangerous standard.”


The post ‘Outrageous Development’ – UNRWA Jerusalem HQ Closed after Jewish Settler Arson Attack appeared first on Palestine Chronicle.

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