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Israeli settlers vandalise UNRWA's Jerusalem headquarters, threaten staff

March 18, 2024 at 2:34 pm

Far-right Israelis, holding Israeli flags and banners, gather in front of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) headquarters to stage a demonstration to demand the closure of UNRWA for allegedly aiding Hamas in West Jerusalem on February 05, 2024. [Mostafa Alkharouf – Anadolu Agency]

Israeli settlers this morning vandalised the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) headquarters in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, located in occupied East Jerusalem, affixing posters calling for its closure.

The UN agency has a headquarters in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem. It also manages the Shuafat refugee camp, in addition to a number of schools and medical facilities.

According to Wafa news agency, video footage shows a group of Israeli settlers placing posters on the main entrance of the agency’s headquarters, accompanied by threats against its staff unless it shuts down.

Security and local sources have reported a recent surge in Israeli incitement directed at UNRWA and its Jerusalem headquarters after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed 12 of the agency’s staff took part in the 7 October attack on Israel. No evidence has been provided for his claims, which have been brought into question not only by the UN, but by a number of Western governments.

Today’s protest comes after the Deputy Mayor of the West Jerusalem Municipality, the far-right Aryeh King, penned a letter to the extremist Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, ordering him to evacuate the international agency from its headquarters in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in Jerusalem.

He also demanded the evacuation of the Qalandiya Training College, based north of the city, also known as the “Vocational Training Centre” of UNRWA.

Israel has repeatedly equated UNRWA staff with Hamas members in efforts to discredit them, providing no proof of the claims, while lobbying hard to have UNRWA closed as it is the only UN agency to have a specific mandate to look after the basic needs of Palestinian refugees.

If the agency no longer exists, argues Israel, then the refugee issue must no longer exist, and the legitimate right for Palestinian refugees to return to their land will be unnecessary. Israel has denied that right of return since the late 1940s, even though its own membership of the UN was made conditional upon Palestinian refugees being allowed to return to their homes and land.

Watch: UNRWA reports its staff tortured into false confessions of Hamas ties