UN aid agency warns of catastrophe in Jenin camp amid Israeli incursions

Conditions in the West Bank Jenin refugee camp are “turning into a catastrophe,” the head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said today, warning that further tragedy would ensue if humanitarian workers were not given immediate access to the area.Following the death of some 13 Israeli soldiers on Tuesday during their incursion into the camp, Israeli forces are intensifying their demolition of shelters, according to UNRWA, which cited field reports indicating that bulldozers were “shaving off” shelters in the 1-square kilometre camp in which close to 15,000 refugees live.UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen expressed his deep dismay and concern at the continuing assaults on the Jenin refugee camp despite calls from the international community for the withdrawal of Israeli forces without delay.In a statement released in Jerusalem, the Agency said its unrelenting efforts to gain access to the camp and to start the gruesome task of burying the dead, evacuating the wounded and bringing urgently needed food and water to the population continue to be blocked by Israeli troops. “The dreadful conditions in the camp are such that if relief teams do not gain access immediately, a terrible humanitarian tragedy will ensue,” UNRWA said.Reached by phone in Gaza, Mr. Hansen’s Chef de Cabinet, Mian Qadrudin, indicated that Israeli forces had given a deadline for civilians to evacuate. “We have been given a deadline for their departure in some of the camp areas, that is the deadline of this evening,” he told UN Radio, adding that this suggested that more houses would be demolished in the Israeli incursion. Listen to interview In Nablus, Israeli soldiers have rounded up all male residents of Camp No. 1 between the ages of 14 and 50. “UNRWA has called on the Israeli authorities to cease their incursion into Camp No.1 and to withdraw immediately,” the Agency statement said.In the largest Israeli military operation into an institute of higher learning, troops yesterday broke into UNRWA’s Ramallah Men’s Training Centre, arresting 104 trainees along with the Dean of the Centre, Dr. Mohammad Omran. The Agency protested the action, calling for an immediate release of the detainees, while reminding the Israeli authorities of their responsibility for the security of UNRWA staff and facilities.Condemning the detention of the trainees and the Dean, Mr. Hansen demanded their immediate release. “Incursions into UNRWA installations by Israeli forces and detention of UNRWA trainees and staff are completely unacceptable and contrary to Israel’s obligations to guarantee the security of United Nations staff and installations,” he said.

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