Head of UN relief agency for Palestine refugees urges Israeli pullout from camps

Head of UN relief agency for Palestine refugees urges Israeli pullout from camps

Reacting to Israel's military re-entry into Jenin and reports that the country plans more incursions, the head of the largest United Nations relief agency in the area today urged a complete withdrawal from all camps in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Reacting to Israel's military re-entry into Jenin and reports that the country plans more incursions, the head of the largest United Nations relief agency in the area today urged a complete withdrawal from all camps in the occupied Palestinian territory.

“Such operations endanger the lives of refugees,” said the Commissioner General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Peter Hansen, who is in Gaza.

"Many people were reported injured or killed," he added, citing information received from those inside the camps. "Many refugee shelters had been destroyed and several were still ablaze."

"The people who met with me were pleading for help to get the injured to hospitals or to get medical care to them on the ground, as well as to allow the fire brigades to put out the fires before they spread further," the UNRWA chief said. He added that at the Agency's urging, along with calls from the ICRC, "the Israeli Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence, as well as those on the Palestinian side, were able to effect a very brief ceasefire so that some of the needs could be addressed."

For the second day running, Mr. Hansen and UNRWA staff attempted to enter Jenin Camp to deliver medicine, food and humanitarian supplies to the refugees. After a delay of several hours, some medicines were delivered to Jenin hospital.

Interviewed by UN Radio, the Commissioner General said Agency staff were "under some rather heavy crossfire." In addition, two drivers attempting to deliver supplies to Jenin were "beaten very badly."

He emphasized that the situation "cannot go on like this," adding, "There is simply no alternative to the two parties getting back to the negotiating table."