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July 17, 2014 10:06 am

UNRWA Discovers 20 Rockets Hidden in Gaza School; Claims Incident Was ‘First of of its Kind in Gaza’

avatar by Joshua Levitt

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Students at a UNRWA School in Gaza, in 2011. Photo: UN / Shareef Sarhan.

Students at a UNRWA School in Gaza, in 2011. Photo: UN / Shareef Sarhan.

UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, on Thursday said it discovered 20 rockets hidden in a vacant school it operated in Gaza.

In a statement, UNRWA said it “strongly condemns the group or groups responsible for placing the weapons in one of its installations. This is a flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law. This incident, which is the first of its kind in Gaza, endangered civilians including staff and put at risk UNRWA’s vital mission to assist and protect Palestine refugees in Gaza.”

It said the rockets were discovered on Wednesday during a “regular inspection” and that it immediately “informed the relevant parties and successfully took all necessary measures for the removal of the objects in order to preserve the safety and security of the school. UNRWA has launched a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding this incident.”

In the statement, the UNRWA said it “has strong, established procedures to maintain the neutrality of all its premises, including a strict no-weapons policy and routine inspections of its installations, to ensure they are only used for humanitarian purposes.”

Responding to UNRWA’s announcement, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor on Thursday told The Algemeiner, “It’s outrageous that instead of enriching its schools with textbooks and educational materials in order to make a better society, Hamas fills its schools with terror and hatred.”

“There is no red line that Hamas does not cross,” Prosor said. “Hamas puts weapons of death and destruction even in UNRWA’s educational institutions, which were established in order to aid the civilian population.”

“Because hatred is part of the curriculum and children are used as propaganda tools, we lose a generation of young people who are the next leadership.

The discovery of rockets in the UNRWA school was the second strike against the agency in as many days, after Prosor on Wednesday called for the immediate suspension of UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness for encouraging international journalists to interview a professor who justifies terrorism against civilians to bolster Hamas.

“Rather than denouncing Hamas’s targeting of innocent civilians, Mr. Gunness is shamelessly promoting an individual who shares Hamas’s morally reprehensible convictions,” Prosor said in a letter seen by The Algemeiner. “Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization, deliberately embeds its military operations in residential areas and exploits its own civilian population as human shields. These actions constitute war crimes and should be condemned in no uncertain terms. In failing to do so, Mr. Gunness is ignoring Hamas’s abuse of the civilian population in Gaza and acting in opposition to UNRWA’s mandate.”

UNRWA was established by the UN General Assembly in 1949 to provide shelter for the 652,000 Arabs who fled or were expelled from Israel during the fighting that followed the end of the British mandate over Palestine. Today it provides education, health care, social services and emergency aid to 5 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, and the West Bank.

In 2009, the UNRWA managed a total budget of $1.2 billion, for which the agency received $948 million, used mainly to pay its 25,000 staff, 99% of whom are locally recruited Palestinians. The group said that its 2014 budget is currently being run with an unfunded deficit of $69 million.
A breakdown of Palestinian refugees living in UNRWA camps across Gaza, West Bank, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. Photo: UN.

A breakdown of Palestinian refugees living in UNRWA camps across Gaza, West Bank, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. Photo: UN.

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