(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas used violence and threats against UN personnel in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge, The Jerusalem Post learned from credible sources this week.
During the operation, Hamas was hiding weapons in facilities run by UNRWA, and firing rockets from close proximity to its schools, it was discovered. UNRWA workers were subject to Hamas threats at gun-point during the operation.
In a number of incidents, Hamas terrorists threatened to kill UNRWA personnel if they revealed that the Islamist group was using the UN facilities for purposes of war, to ensure that they would not speak out about Hamas’s activities.
Details have also emerged of the fate of medical supplies and food that were intended to be distributed by UNRWA to residents of Gaza in need of humanitarian aid. On a number of occasions, armed Hamas operatives forcefully confiscated the supplies, taking them for their own use.
In a few cases, both during and after the Gaza war, trucks carrying supplies to UNRWA facilities were intercepted and taken over by Hamas terrorists.
With Cairo hosting a donors conference on the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip in the coming months, the revelations add to the question of whether such reconstruction aid can be provided without it falling into the hands of Hamas.
The UN itself has acknowledged the problem.
During the war, UNRWA officially condemned the placing of weapons in its installations, and called it “a flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law.”
UNRWA spokesman Christopher Gunness, however, denied the reported details, saying “I have checked and double checked with sources in Gaza and there is no evidence of death threats made to UNRWA personnel.
“There is no evidence that any UNRWA aid was stolen.
Our aid delivery is secure and we have shown it to be so time and time again over many years. Moreover, we have demonstrated this repeatedly to the satisfaction of the Israeli military authorities and major donors such as the US. Everything is checked under strict procedures from the point of origin to the point of delivery.
There were two occasions after the fighting in 2008-9 when food aid was stolen. On both occasions I made strong public condemnations and on both occasions everything was returned. We are open, transparent and secure.
“For years The Jerusalem Post
has run editorials that time after time accuse UNRWA of supporting Hamas in a wide variety of ways. Now we are hearing the complete opposite – accusations that Hamas are threatening to kill our staff at gunpoint. The truth is that our neutrality is the family silver and we could not operate in combat zones such as Gaza, or indeed Syria without it, so we guard it jealously,” he said.