Palestine: Gaza youth forum says under attack by armed groups


Weeks after an UNRWA recreation center in Gaza was set alight by masked gunmen, the Sharek Youth Forum said it has suspended work in the coastal enclave, after its offices were raided several times by armed groups. A statement issued Wednesday said the youth group's equipment had been confiscated and its staff harassed. " Gazan youth are being prevented from expressing their views by unchecked armed groups.

Sharek wrote that daily raids and confiscations are "crushing" the society. "We have firmly committed to dealing with this crisis with integrity and impartiality and to seek the fair application of the law and the restoration of our property," the statement read.

Organizers said "We do not accuse any particular party but stress that armed groups have taken these actions in the name of national security." The Gaza government had failed to take "significant action" and has "continued to disregard the violations experienced by Sharek, and indeed all civil society institutions," they said.

Given that those who carry out the violations "do so in the name of the government in the Gaza Strip" the youth group said Hamas was responsible for providing for the security and safety of its citizens and institutions, in particular against direct violations against them.

"The fact that a group uses a name other than that of the government does not absolve the government from liability in these matters even if the groups are not related to the security or armed forces of the government in Gaza," the statement read and referred to the recent Israeli raid of a Gaza bound aid boat, which was intercepted in international waters, and saw nine passengers killed.

"The efforts by international activists in the Freedom Flotilla to break the siege of Gaza and the attention of the world’s media on the siege has been used as a distraction and a cover to settle scores with any individual or organization arguing for unity, reform, development, freedom and justice in the Strip. 

The non-partisan youth organization further said that it they believed it should "also draw their attention to the ‘internal’ siege, imposed upon us from within through confiscations and the daily withdrawal of freedoms."

Appealing to the world, Sharek called for legal protection and freedom of action for organizations and popular movements in the Gaza Strip and a cessation of all violations and violence targeting them. 

"The government should take responsibility for its citizens and organizations working in the Gaza Strip, ensuring that it avoids political double-standards and factional interests."

On 24 May, a group of 30 armed and masked men attacked and set fire to an UNRWA recreation facility on Gaza City's beach front. 

The location is one of 35 beach facilities under construction, which will form part of UNRWA’s annual Summer Games program for over 250,000 refugee children in Gaza, due to commence on 12 June, the statement read.