For the second time in two weeks, the head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has decided to relocate international staff out of the strife-torn Gaza Strip because of Israeli incursions and general instability.
“I have been closely monitoring the evolution of the security situation in the Gaza Strip which forced me on 21 July to relocate part of my Headquarters staff to Jerusalem,” Agency Commissioner-General Peter Hansen said in a statement. “Since then, Israeli military operations in Beit Hanoun have continued and been expanded and there have been announcements regarding the potential extension of Israeli military incursions into other parts of the Northern Gaza Strip.”
He also cited the risk posed by increasing clashes among Palestinian factions in the area.
All remaining staff of UNRWA’s headquarters office in Gaza will move to Amman, Jordan, except for the seven-member team that includes Mr. Hansen, his deputy and their immediate aides. Nineteen international staff will go to Amman, bringing to some 40 the total from the two announced relocations.
UNRWA’s Gaza Field Office will continue to be fully staffed and will maintain all regular and emergency services provided to Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip.
“For the beneficiaries, for the refugees both as regards our normal programme of activities and as regards our emergency operations, it should not have any effect,” UNRWA’s Rene Aquarone told the UN News Service. He pointed out that 8,000 local staff will remain to “work as effectively as always.”
Israeli military operations in Beit Hanoun are “putting our staff at unnecessary risk of being caught in the crossfire or being stuck in Gaza” in the event that roads become blocked, he explained.
“What is required as far as we’re concerned is an end to these military operations and we are of course talking to the Israeli Government and the Israeli military, explaining what has led us to relocate our international staff, and voicing hope for a situation that will enable us to bring them back,” he said.