Citing safety reasons, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency withdrew some of its foreign staff from Gaza on Monday.
UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness called on the Hamas-led government in Gaza to “respond to [UNRWA’s] repeated demands to provide effective protection to its employees and facilities.”
“The lack of effective security and safety risks impacting vital humanitarian services to more than 1.3 million refugees in Gaza,” he said. UNRWA withdrew some of its staff following “a series of worrying security incidents affecting its personnel.”
Gunness added that a number of UNRWA workers had been “harassed and prevented from carrying out their duties” by people angered by the organization’s cost-cutting
measures due to its financial crisis.
“Some of these actions have specifically targeted the UNRWA management in Gaza,” Gunness said.
A spokesperson for the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said, “Earlier today, a number of UNRWA officials holding foreign citizenship were evacuated from the Gaza Strip to Israel. Their evacuation was carried out in light of the tension in the Strip caused by UNRWA’s financial crisis, and fear for the safety of international workers.”
Hamas did not prevent the violence against the UNRWA personnel, he added.
UNRWA runs 278 schools in Gaza, which are attended by some 300,000 students. It is feared that the financial crisis could lead to the loss of jobs in Gaza, where employment is scarce.
The agency has been in crisis mode this year due to the loss of $300 million in funding from the United States and a declaration by the Trump administration that it planned to stop its annual contributions to the organization.
UNRWA fund-raising drives have filled in the much of the gap. The organization raised $122 million in pledges at an event on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, reducing the shortfall for 2018 to $64 million.
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