Mr Peter Hansen, Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), was accompanying the aid convoy and protested in person to the Israeli troops manning the Sheve Shomron checkpoint who refused to allow it to pass.
Because of the IDF’s measures UNRWA has been unable to assess the condition of the refugees and their homes in Jenin camp. Mr Hansen said: “UNRWA is responsible for the well-being of the refugees, for their shelters, for their protection.” By preventing the UN from carrying out its humanitarian mandate the IDF is in contravention of international conventions covering the protection of civilians during conflicts.
The UNRWA convoy attempted to reach Jenin camp after making a stop at Balata camp in Nablus, where there have also been heavy IDF incursions in the last week. Talal Salameh, a member of the Palestinian legislature and a senior figure in the camp, gave Mr Hansen a tour of the destruction in the camp.
It is estimated that at least 130 homes in Balata have been completely destroyed or very severely damaged by the fighting. Much of the camp’s infrastructure has also been badly affected. Mr Hansen met with Farisa Abu Farisan, a nurse in UNRWA’s Balata clinic. She told him how she had spent 48 hours working non-stop in the clinic and that one of the children she had been treating had died in her arms.
Mr Hansen said: “UNRWA has to protect the refugees, to provide them with their shelter and their basic needs and so I am shocked and pained by what I saw in Balata. Not only shocked by the destruction of the refugees’ homes, the destruction of their water supplies, electricity and other amenities, but also by the fear and terror that the camp population has had to live through.”
Mr Hansen added: “The refugees look to UNRWA to assist them in their plight. The Agency recently launched an emergency appeal to support its humanitarian work in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The destruction I have seen today makes it ever more important that the international community responds to that appeal – an appeal that sees greater needs piled on it with every passing day.”