Palestine: Gunmen attack UNRWA summer camp for 'teaching girls swimming, fitness & dancing'


The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) strongly condemns the attack carried out by a large number of masked gunmen on a summer games camp organized by UNRWA at a beach in the west of Gaza City. The attackers set fire to parts of the camp and damaged its contents in the early morning. PCHR calls upon the government in the Gaza Strip to seriously investigate the attack and bring the perpetrators to justice.

According to investigations conducted by PCHR and the testimony of the camp guard, Ibrahim Kamel 'Eleiwa, at approximately 2:30 on Sunday, 23 May 2010, a large number of masked gunmen broke into the UNRWA camp designated for the summer games at the beach in the Sheikh 'Ejleen area in the west of Gaza City. They attacked the guard with gun butts, handcuffed him and took his mobile phone. They then began damaging the contents of the camp, tearing down the canvas walls and setting fire to the equipment used by children.Before they left, one of gunmen put a letter and three bullets in the pocket of the handcuffed guard. The letter included a threat against three UNRWA officials, including John Ging, Director UNRWA Operations in Gaza. At approximately 5:00, the supervisor of the camp arrived with an interrogator, who inspected the area and took the guard to the police station for questioning.

It should be noted that UNRWA began holding summer games, which target children aged 7-15 in the summer of 2008. The camps have been held at UNRWA schools and at camps on the beach and included sport and art activities. The camp that was targeted this morning consists of nine sites, each of which stands on a 2-donum area of land, forming a total area of 18 donums. Each site offers services to a total of 500 children during two separate morning and afternoon periods. The camp serves 4,500 children every two weeks. It was decided that four camps were going to be held this summer in order to serve 18,000 children in addition to providing job opportunities for 540 persons. The first camp was scheduled to commence on 12 June 2010.

Last Wednesday, an unknown group named "Homeland Freemen" issued a press release strongly criticizing UNRWA and its administration, particularly with regard to the summer camps, which were described as aiming at teaching girls "swimming, fitness and dancing." In the press release, the group threatened that "the dignified and honored Gaza will resist such corruption and stop it." The group further criticized the government in the Gaza Strip, asking: "You, government of Gaza, what is your attitude towards these criminal acts?"

PCHR strongly condemns this attack, which constitutes part of the state of security chaos and misuse of weapons plaguing the (OPT), and:

  • Calls upon the government in the Gaza Strip to open prompt and effective investigations into the attack, prosecute the perpetrators, take the necessary legal action, and publish the results of the investigation;
  • Calls upon the government to take a clear position condemning the attack and expressing willingness to take necessary measures to ensure complete protection of UNRWA institutions and facilities, including the summer camps;
  • Emphasizes the important role played by UNRWA in supporting the Palestinian people through its different programs organized to serve Palestinian refugees, particularly in the Gaza Strip, where civilians face additional hardship due to the ongoing siege and Israeli practices;
  • Confirms its full support of UNRWA programs, including summer camps, which constitute a necessity for children at the educational, mental health, and social levels, especially due to the difficult experiences they have been exposed to, particularly the unprecedented violence practiced against them during the latest Israeli offensive;
  • Strongly condemns all attempts aiming at attacking and undermining these services; and
  • Emphasizes the importance of the rule of law and completely rejects the notion that any party can claim to be the guardian of morals and values of this people, and carries out whatever attacks it deems appropriate, as such actions constitute the epitome of security chaos and misuse of weapons.   

Sunday, 23 May 2010 10:00