Publish date21 Mar 2024 - 17:19
Story Code : 629036

Israeli forces harass UNRWA staff in West Bank

Documents reveal the staff working for the international agency for Palestinian refugees in the occupied West Bank have been subject to various forms of harassment by Israeli forces since October 7 brutal war on Gaza Strip.
Israeli forces harass UNRWA staff in West Bank
An internal UNRWA document recorded hundreds of incidents where staff were beaten at military checkpoints and the Israeli army used the agency's facilities to launch violent raids on Palestinian refugee camps. 

In one incident, two UNRWA staff were forcefully made to leave their marked UN vehicle at gunpoint at a checkpoint near Bethlehem, while the vehicle was searched by Israeli officers who made "reference to the staff belonging to Hamas".

They were then made to kneel down, and were blindfolded, handcuffed with cable ties and beaten, before a senior officer intervened. 
In an example of obstruction, a shipment of medicine earmarked for UNRWA health centers was held up by Israeli customs in Jordan for over two months. It was only cleared on Sunday, hours after the media intervened. A customs spokesperson denied there had been a delay.
The internal document also cites examples of UNRWA facilities being used by Israeli troops during military operations in the West Bank, including a raid on al-Faara refugee camp on 8 December.

At least 10 security forces had entered a clearly marked UN health center, taking up positions with their firearms pointed towards the camp. Six Palestinians were killed during the raid, including a 14-year-old child. 

"UNRWA staff [in the West Bank] have been verbally abused, subject to identity checks and searches, and required to lift their clothing to demonstrate the absence of weapons," the internal document states. 

"Increasingly egregious violations of privileges and immunities of the UN have been recorded, including entries into Unrwa installations by armed personnel… as well as damage to UNRWA installations incurred during the course of such operations."

UNRWA spokesperson Juliette Touma said the incidents detailed were "part of a wider pattern of harassment that we are seeing against UNRWA in the West Bank and Jerusalem".

The report comes two months after Israel alleged that 12 of UNRWA’s 30,000 employees were involved in Operation al-Aqsa Storm launched by Palestinian resistance movement Hamas on occupied Palestine on 7 October.

A string of western countries, including the US, UK, Canada and Germany, suspended funding to the agency following the allegations. Some of them did so without having seen any evidence of the claims. 

The agency has said that the funding suspensions, as well as Israeli calls for UNRWA’s abolition, have left it at "breaking point".

UNRWA was established in 1949 - a year after the Nakba(or catastrophe), during which 750,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes during the creation of Israel - to provide healthcare, education and humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
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