Gazans Storm UN Compound Over Suspension of Aid

UN envoy Serry 'outraged' at Hamas laxness, while Hamas officials infuriated by cash-strapped UNRWA's halt of payments to repair houses destroyed in summer war.

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Gazans burn tires outside office of UN Special Coordinator for Middle East Peace Process, January 28, 2015.
Gazans burn tires outside office of UN Special Coordinator for Middle East Peace Process, January 28, 2015.Credit: AP

Dozens of Palestinian protesters stormed a UN compound in the Gaza Strip Wednesday morning after UNRWA, citing lack of funds, suspended payments to Gazan families to rebuild their homes wrecked by Israeli air assaults last summer.

Robert Serry, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, expressed "outrage" at Hamas' failure to protect his office's compound despite its knowing of the protest beforehand.

Hamas officials, in turn, were reported to be infuriated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency's decision to suspend the payments, saying it amounted to an abandonment of Gaza's destitute, desperate population.

Serry said in a statement, "The special coordinator is outraged by the assault on the [UN special coordinator's] compound in Gaza this morning. During a pre-announced demonstration, of which Hamas was well aware, a number of, protesters climbed the perimeter wall and entered the compound, causing damage to United Nations premises and property. Due to precautionary measures taken, United Nations personnel working in the compound were fortunately unharmed."

He added, "Pending a full transfer of security responsibilities to the legitimate Palestinian Authority, we continue to hold Hamas fully responsible for the security and safety of all United Nations personnel and operations in Gaza."

On Tuesday UNRWA announced it was suspending payments to tens of thousands of Gazan refugee families made homeless or reduced to living among ruins since the summer war. The agency said that although $720 million had been pledged by donor countries to repair the Strip's 96,000 destroyed or severely damaged homes, only $135 million had arrived.

"People are literally sleeping amongst the rubble, children have died of hypothermia," Robert Turner, Gaza director of operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, said in a statement.

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