The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has protested to the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) the treatment of one of the Agency’s international staff members and her family, who were subject to degrading searches and unjustified detention.
In the early hours of 22 November, an IDF combat unit of 20 to 30 heavily armed troops surrounded the Bethlehem home of Allegra Pacheco, UNRWA’s Field Legal Officer. She was held at gunpoint in the open air for two hours while her house was searched, her mobile phone was taken from her and her car was used as a prop for IDF weapons. Ms. Pacheco repeatedly pointed out her UN status to the troops, who ignored her.
In addition Ms Pacheco’s husband, Abed Al-Ahmar, who is recognized by the UN as a dependent of a staff member, was forced to partially strip before being taken into IDF custody. UNRWA has since learned that an 11-day detention order has been issued for him.
“An armed raid on a staff member’s home and degrading treatment of her and her spouse is disruptive of her ability to carry out her official functions,” UNRWA said in a statement. “This is completely contrary to the undertakings made by the Government of Israel to facilitate the work of the Agency.”
UNRWA, which understands that Mr. Al-Ahmar is being held without just cause, has requested his release.
Currently 23 of UNRWA’s Palestinian staff in the West Bank are being detained by the Israeli authorities. All but three are being held without charge. UNRWA has requested explanations for each arrest but has received no reply and is refused access to its staff after their arrests.