The Electronic Intifada interviewed Sami Mushasha, spokesperson for the UN agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) following Israel’s bombing of its quarters today.
The Electronic Intifada: Can you describe the extent of the damage suffered by UNRWA in the bombing of the headquarters today and exactly where the site is that was bombed?
Sami Mushasha: The UNRWA headquarters are in the al-Rimal district in the center of Gaza City. The location is well known to the Israeli authorities as is the fact that they enjoy UN immunity. The damage is great. Although we do not know the exact extent yet, we have lost many trucks, cars and food aid supplies.
We are trying to put out the fires and hopefully, God willing, we will be able to restore things as soon as possible.
Early reports say that three people were injured but we do not know if they were refugees [taking shelter there] or UNRWA personnel.
EI: Today’s bombing of the UNRWA office was the third time a UN institution was hit in two weeks. What is your response to this bombing?
SM: This is not the first, second, or even third time. In fact there have been about six or seven bombings of UNRWA sites and the latest is the bombing of the UNRWA headquarters. This is our main site which has our main offices and warehouses.
It was targeted when there were about 750 women, children and men — all civilians [taking shelter there]. There is no safe place, not for UNRWA or for those who use its services.
We had previously received guarantees relating to the freedom of movement and safe corridors for delivering aid, but these have not been respected. This is a very dangerous signal for those who seek UNRWA’s assistance.
At this moment we are trying to put out the fire [from the bombing], but it has already destroyed much of the food supplies that we were able to bring into Gaza.
We were barely able to put out fire near the fuel storage tanks before they could explode. This all impacts very negatively on our ability to protect civilians.
This underscores once more the UN’s call for an immediate ceasefire so that we can provide assistance to an area that has suffered a catastrophe, to say the very least.
EI: There has been talk of suspending UNRWA services in Gaza. Is this true?
SM: We have not suspended services but most of our trucks are inside the UNRWA site that was bombed and we are unable to move them to Karem Abu Salem [Kerem Shalom crossing with Israel] so that they can receive aid supplies and distribute them.
So a suspension has effectively been imposed on us, but we want to restore services as soon as we are able.
This testimony was obtained by The Electronic Intifada correspondent in Gaza Rami Almeghari with technical assistance from IMEMC.org