UN slams Israel’s closures in Hebron as ‘collective punishment

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UNITED NATIONS, July 25 (APP): The United Nations relief agency tasked with the well-being of Palestinian refugees has said that a closure imposed by Israeli authorities in Hebron district is creating serious challenges for humanitarian access, including the delivery of medical supplies, the removal of refuse, and the daily movement of the agency’s staff working inside refugee camp.

The closure was implemented following a series of violent incidents that took place before the end of Ramazan in which two Israelis were killed. It has particularly affected the Fawwar refugee camp, impacting approximately 9,500 refugees.

“I condemn the closure as it collectively punishes the Fawwar camp residents,” Scott Anderson, West Bank Field Director at the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), said in statement issued by the agency on Monday.

“Echoing the UN’s repeated statements condemning violence against civilians, I call upon the Israeli authorities to refrain from collectively punishing innocent people for the acts of others,” he added.

UNRWA highlighted that the closure has impacted the population both socially and economically, as well as placed an increased health risk for camp residents. The main entrance is closed to vehicles, hampering the residents’ ability to report to their work outside the camp. While pedestrians can still use the entrance, the extra distance that many have to travel incurs additional expenses that further affect their already bleak financial situation.

It further noted that disruptions to the supply chain are increasing the costs of basic commodities inside the camp.
Anderson visited the area on 19th July and was granted exceptional access through Fawwar main entrance only after coordination with the Israeli authorities.

“This is all the more disturbing when Fawwar camp residents, a refugee couple” were the first to respond to the Israeli family following the drive-by shooting incident, providing them with first aid before the arrival of the ambulances,” he said, referring to one of the violent attacks.

The statement further underscored that the UN, including Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has repeatedly condemned, in the strongest terms, all such attacks and violence impacting Israeli and Palestinian civilians.

UNRWA said that will continue to liaise with the Israeli authorities to request passage of medical supplies in the camp in order to ensure their continuous supply for its health clinic.

Recalling the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a party and which applies to occupied territories, the agency called upon the Israeli authorities to end the closures and to ensure unimpeded access for its staff and humanitarian assistance across the West Bank.