Jul 14 2014 - 07:56

UNRWA calls for UN buildings to remain safe havens in Gaza

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UNRWA calls for UN buildings to remain safe havens in Gaza
Lebanon News
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) on Monday (July 14) called for their schools and premises to remain places of safety in the Gaza strip, after thousands of Palestinians sought refuge there. 

"We know that when people seek refuge in a place, they think these premises are safe. UNRWA premises and other UN premises must be respected and spared from the effects of the fighting that's a very important message. So, we speaking about it, as a reminder of what happened in 2008-9, and as a call for it not to be repeated," said Commissioner General of UNRWA Pierre Krahenbuhl.  

 In 2008, Israel came under international criticism after it struck UNRWA-run schools where thousands of Palestinians had sought refuge during intense fighting. 

Israel appeared to hold off on a threatened escalation of its week-old Gaza Strip barrage despite having balked at Western calls for a ceasefire with an equally defiant Hamas.

On Sunday (July 13), the Israeli military warned residents of the northern border town of Beit Lahiya to leave or risk their lives when, after nightfall, it planned to intensify air strikes against suspected Palestinian rocket launchers among civilian homes.

UNRWA said around a quarter of Beit Lahiya's 70,000 residents fled, fearing Israeli attacks which, according to Gaza officials, have killed more than 166 people, most of them non-combatants, since the cross-border shelling war began. 

But other than a lone air strike on farmland outside the town, which the Palestinians said caused no casualties, Beit Lahiya was largely quiet in the early hours of Monday. Israel said one rocket was fired from Gaza, without inflicting damage.

 Krahenbuhl said UNRWA was prepared expand its services and operations in the Strip in the event of a ground invasion.

"If there is a widening operation and if there are more people who are displaced and who need refuge we will be opening more space, we have done it in the past, and we could do it again, but again hoping that it would not come to that," he said.

 There have been more than 940 rocket launches by Hamas and other factions from Gaza over the past week, Israel says.

 Israel has not suffered fatalities, due in part to the success of its Iron Dome rocket interceptors, but the salvoes have disrupted life in major cities, paralyzed vulnerable southern towns and triggered Israeli mobilization of troops for a possible Gaza invasion if the Palestinian rockets persisted.

The Gaza Health Ministry said at least 166 Palestinians - among them about 138 civilians, including 30 children - have died during six days of warfare, and more than 1,000 wounded.



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