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UN agency protests Israeli military’s occupation of refugee camp girls’ school

UN agency protests Israeli military’s occupation of refugee camp girls’ school

The main United Nations agency providing assistance to Palestine refugees today protested the Israeli military’s occupation of a girls’ school in the Tulkarem refugee camp in the West Bank, calling it a flagrant violation of international law.

According to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Israeli military forces broke into and occupied the Agency school in the early morning on 2 April and proceeded to use the school as a detention centre for male residents of the camp between the ages of 15 and 40.

“The occupation of an UNRWA school and its use for military purposes is a violation of international legal norms, and is a discouraging step backwards in UNRWA's continuing efforts to secure humanitarian access in the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” the Agency’s Commissioner-General, Peter Hansen, said. “I call on the Israeli authorities to leave UNRWA's school and to allow UNRWA access to its other facilities in Tulkarem camp, including a clinic, so that essential services can be restored to the refugees.”

The Agency said the occupation was not the first such abuse of UNRWA's humanitarian installations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, citing the Israeli military’s repeated use last year of UNRWA schools as detention centres, and in some cases, the use of UNRWA installations as bases from which they launched military operations. In all cases, the Agency protested to the Israeli authorities but received no response.

UNRWA said it had recently redoubled efforts to liaise with the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) in the hope that the Israeli military would respect the right of the Agency to carry out its humanitarian operations without interference and restrictions, a right conferred on UNRWA by the 1946 UN Convention on Privileges and Immunities, and by an agreement reached between UNRWA and the Government of Israel in 1967.