In the early morning on 2 April, Israeli military forces broke into and occupied a United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)’s girls’ school in Tulkarem refugee camp in the West Bank, and proceeded to use the school as a detention centre for male residents of the camp between the ages of 15 and 40. The Agency strongly protests this flagrant violation of United Nations privileges and immunities and the continuing denial of UNRWA’s access to the school and the camp as a whole, which has been declared a closed military zone.
The occupation of UNRWA’s girls’ school in Tulkarem is not the first such abuse of UNRWA’s humanitarian installations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. For example, in 2002 the Israeli military repeatedly used UNRWA schools as detention centres, and, in some cases, used UNRWA installations as bases from which they launched military operations. In all cases, the Agency protested to the Israeli authorities, but received no response.
Recently, UNRWA had redoubled efforts to liaise with the Israeli Defence Forces in the hope that the Israeli military would respect the right of the Agency to carry out its humanitarian operations without interference and restrictions, a right conferred on UNRWA by the 1946 United Nations Convention on Privileges and Immunities, and by an agreement reached between UNRWA and the Government of Israel in 1967.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen said: “The occupation of an UNRWA school and its use for military purposes is a violation of international legal norms, and is a discouraging step backwards in UNRWA’s continuing efforts to secure humanitarian access in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. I call on the Israeli authorities to leave UNRWA’s school and to allow UNRWA access to its other facilities in Tulkarem camp, including a clinic, so that essential services can be restored to the refugees.”
For more information:
In Gaza: Johan Eriksson, office: +972-8-677-7549, mobile: +972-59-428-022, e-mail: J.firstname.lastname@example.org