• Sun. Jun 16th, 2024

UNRWA Head Denied Entry to Gaza by Israel for Second Time Amidst Ongoing Conflict


May 6, 2024 #world

In a concerning development, Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), has been denied entry to Gaza by Israeli authorities for the second time since the onset of the Israel-Hamas conflict on October 7.

Expressing his frustration, Lazzarini took to X, formerly Twitter, to condemn Israel’s denial of humanitarian access. “Just this week, they have denied — for the second time — my entry to Gaza where I planned to be with our UNRWA colleagues including those on the front lines,” he stated, underscoring Israel’s continued obstruction of humanitarian efforts in the region.

UNRWA, the largest aid organization operating in Gaza, plays a crucial role in providing assistance to Palestinian refugees, with approximately 13,000 staff members employed in the territory. The ongoing conflict has exacerbated the humanitarian situation, with the Hamas-run health ministry reporting a staggering death toll of at least 34,683, predominantly comprised of women and children.

Lazzarini further highlighted the escalating challenges faced by UNRWA staff, citing incidents of violence and intimidation. “Only in the past two weeks, we have recorded 10 incidents involving shooting at convoys, arrests of UN staff including bullying, stripping them naked, threats with arms & long delays at checkpoints forcing convoys to move during the dark or abort,” he revealed, emphasizing the dire conditions on the ground.

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Amidst the ongoing hostilities, Lazzarini called for an “independent investigation” into recent rocket fire that resulted in the closure of the Kerem Shalom aid crossing, a vital lifeline for Gaza’s residents. The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, claimed responsibility for Sunday’s rocket launches, targeting Israeli troops near the crossing area.

In response, the Israeli army conducted airstrikes on a Hamas command and control center in central Gaza. The army asserted that Hamas deliberately positioned the center within the vicinity of an active UNRWA location, jeopardizing the safety of civilians seeking refuge there. According to the army, the center served as a base for launching attacks on Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) troops in Gaza’s central corridor in recent weeks.

UNRWA was thrust into controversy earlier this year when Israel accused several of its 30,000 employees of involvement in a cross-border Hamas attack on October 7. The organization has vehemently denied these allegations, emphasizing its commitment to providing humanitarian assistance impartially and without discrimination.

As tensions persist in the region, the denial of humanitarian access to Gaza underscores the urgent need for a cessation of hostilities and a renewed commitment to facilitating humanitarian aid to alleviate the suffering of civilians caught in the crossfire.

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