11 June 2003
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has today protested to the Israeli Government at the actions of its security services that prevented the entire headquarters management of the Agency from leaving the Gaza Strip to attend a high-level meeting.
Security procedures enforced today at the Erez checkpoint out of Gaza prevented Peter Hansen, UNRWA’s Commissioner-General and an Under-Secretary General of the United Nations, taking his senior management team from Gaza to a meeting of the Agency’s directors in Amman, Jordan. It is the first time in the 53-year history of UNRWA that its quarterly management meeting has had to be cancelled because the Agency’s freedom of movement has been curtailed in this way.
The incident is the culmination of weeks of ever-tightening restrictions on the movement of UNRWA’s international personnel. Hundreds of man-hours have been lost at the Erez crossing in the last month, seriously impairing the Agency’s operations. At times,such as today, most of the Agency’s staff have been trapped either inside Gaza or inside Israel as a result of the closures - in violation of their freedom of movement under international law. All of which has taken place despite the fact that not one of UNRWA’s international staff has ever been found to be a security threat to Israel.
Mr. Hansen said: “These continuing restrictions are a clear violation of the international agreements to which Israel is a signatory. Furthermore, they fly in the face of the assurances made by the Government of Israel to ease the humanitarian plight of the Palestinians as a step in the roadmap to peace. Today’s events are unacceptable because they hamper the operations of the largest humanitarian organisation working in the occupied Palestinian territory.”
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