Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the head of United Nations relief operations in Gaza have deplored this morning’s attack on a recreational facility used by children in the territory, the second such incident in a month.
A group of about 25 armed and masked men attacked and set fire to the facility on the beach in Nuseirat that was being used to host the Summer Games, run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
No one was hurt in the incident, which follows a similar attack on 23 May when a group of 30 armed and masked men attacked and set fire to an UNRWA Summer Games facility that was under construction on the beach in Gaza City.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has referred to the Summer Games, which is in its fourth year, as “a rare opportunity for relief from the deprivations and difficulties of everyday life in Gaza,” which has suffered from a three-year-long blockade imposed by Israel for what it called security reasons after Hamas took power there in 2007.
“The Secretary-General calls upon the de-facto authorities to combat any incitement against United Nations operations, and ensure the safety of UNRWA and other UN personnel and programmes, serving the most vulnerable in Gaza,” his spokesperson said in a statement.
“He calls for those responsible for these incidents to be brought to justice,” the statement added.
“Cowardly and despicable” is how John Ging, UNRWA’s Director of Operations in Gaza, described today’s attack. “The overwhelming success of UNRWA’s Summer Games has once again obviously frustrated those that are intolerant of children’s happiness,” he added.
Mr. Ging said the attack will not deter UNRWA from continuing with the annual event, which is the largest recreation programme for Gaza’s children and provides, among others, sports, swimming, arts and crafts, and drama.
“UNRWA will rebuild the camp immediately and will continue with its Summer Games programme which is so important for the physical and psychological well-being of Gaza’s children, so many of whom are stressed and traumatized by their circumstances and experiences,” he stated.
“This is another example of the growing levels of extremism in Gaza and further evidence, if that were needed, of the urgency to change the circumstances on the ground that are generating such extremism,” he added.
The Summer Games began on 12 June and will run through 5 August, providing 1,200 summer camps for more than 250,000 refugee children across Gaza.