UN agency in East Jerusalem closes after arson: Security concerns escalate

The United Nations' main aid agency for Palestinians, UNWRA, temporarily closed its headquarters in East Jerusalem following an arson attack by local Israeli residents.

Publication: 10.05.2024 - 17:21
UN agency in East Jerusalem closes after arson: Security concerns escalate
Abone Ol google-news

The incident occurred on the outskirts of the agency's sprawling compound on Thursday, marking the second such event in less than a week, according to Philippe Lazzarini, head of UNWRA.

Lazzarini expressed his outrage over the incident on social media platform X, stating, "This is an outrageous development. Once again, the lives of UN staff were at serious risk." He emphasized that as an occupying power, it is Israel's responsibility to ensure the protection of UN personnel and facilities.

Adam Bouloukos, director of UNRWA affairs in the occupied West Bank, reported that the fire consumed about 70 meters of dry grass and scrub near the compound's fence. A second fire, which erupted near the agency's fuel depot, posed a significant risk of a major explosion. Bouloukos himself was struck by stones while attempting to extinguish the flames.

The Israeli police have initiated an investigation into the brush fire adjacent to the UNRWA compound. Preliminary findings suggest that the act was carried out by young minors who may fall below the statutory age threshold for criminal liability.

The attacks come amid heightened tensions, with Israeli officials having repeatedly called for the shutdown of UNRWA since the start of the war on Gaza last October 7. They accuse the agency of complicity with Hamas, allegations that the United Nations vehemently denies.

Lazzarini confirmed that no staff were injured during the incident, but the fires caused considerable damage to outdoor areas of the compound. Emergency services were reportedly slow to respond, leaving UN staff to manage the situation initially.

Footage shared alongside Lazzarini’s post shows smoke rising near the edges of the compound, with sounds of chanting and singing audible in the background. According to Lazzarini, a crowd, some armed, gathered outside the compound chanting, "Burn down the United Nations."

Most Read News