UNRWA says it has closed its East Jerusalem headquarters after fires and attacks

The main United Nations agency helping Palestinians, known as UNRWA, said Thursday it would temporarily close its headquarters in occupied East Jerusalem for the safety of its staff after parts of the compound were set on fire following weeks of attacks.

“This evening, Israeli residents set fire twice to the perimeter of the UNRWA headquarters in occupied East Jerusalem,” said the agency's leader, Philippe Lazzarini, on social media.

The fire caused extensive damage to the complex's outdoor areas, Lazzarini said, but there were no injuries to workers from UNRWA or other United Nations agencies. He added that some workers “had to put out the fire themselves as it took some time for the Israeli fire extinguishers and police to arrive.”

On Friday, Israeli police said in a statement that an investigation had been launched into “suspected forest fire” near the UNRWA facility and that preliminary findings suggest it was initiated by minors and therefore is not subject to prosecution criminal. He provided no further details, but said the investigation was still ongoing.

The attack put the lives of UN staff at “serious risk” and comes two days later protesters threw stones to staff members at the complex, Mr. Lazzarini said.

Protests by Israeli settlers demanding the closure of UNRWA have continued for months. “On several occasions, Israeli extremists have threatened our staff with weapons,” Lazzarini said in a social media post on Thursday, adding that under international law, it is Israel's responsibility “as an occupying power to ensure that staff and United Nations structures are protected globally.” Always.”

Many Israeli officials have called for the dismantling of UNRWA for years, and the agency lost funding from some donor countries earlier this year after Israel accused a dozen of its employees of being involved in the attack led by Hamas against Israel on October 7. An independent review commissioned by the United Nations and published in April found that Israel provided no evidence to support its further allegations that many UNRWA staff are members of terrorist organizations.

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