Hamas fighters AP
Hamas fighters Photo by AP
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The defense establishment has taken the unusual step of granting the United Nations Relief and Works Agency approval to take four weapons into Gaza. The weapons, submachine guns, are to serve the security detail guarding the heads of the agency in Gaza.

The request to bring in the weapons was made three years ago and approved last week.

The director of UNRWA's activities in Gaza, John Ging, said on his website that his life is in constant danger and he needs more suitable protection than the handguns his bodyguards had been carrying.

The UN body asked for German Heckler and Koch submachine guns for UNRWA's commissioner general, Filippo Grandi, and for Ging.

The organization told Israeli security officials that its personnel are being threatened by Hamas representatives. UNRWA operates 221 schools in Gaza and dozens of medical centers, employment centers and women's help centers.

More than a million refugees and their descendents are registered with UNRWA, which operates eight refugee camps in Gaza.

In March 2007, gunmen fired at Ging's convoy and he escaped without injury. In the summer of 2007, armed men again attacked him, in Rafah, killing one. After previous assurances by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories that authorization was forthcoming, in July, Interior Minister Eli Yishai said he would not approve the request.

Ya'akov Imut, in charge of weapons registration at the Interior Ministry, said the ministry turned down the request because it is authorized only to license handguns. Only last week, after pressure from the UN, was the request approved.

The COGAT office said "the delay was because UNRWA received authorization from the Germans only five months ago."

UNRWA's representative in Israel said it does not issue responses on security matters.