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9 March 2002
    West Bank Field Office, P.O. Box 19149, Jerusalem
Telephone: (02) 408 Facsimile: (02) 5322842


Director of UNRWA Operations in West Bank expresses deep concern at the use of the United Nations School in Tulkarem to detain Palestinians

Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank, Richard Cook, has expressed his serious concern at the incursion of Israeli Security Forces into the UNRWA Girls School in Tulkarern and the use of the premises to detain hundreds of Palestinian males above the age of fourteen. He also expressed his concern at the manner in which these detainees were being held and demanded that the Israeli Defence Force immediately leave the premises and respect the privileges and immunities of the United Nations.

The IDF entered the premises on 6 March 2002, and until earlier today UNRWA staff has been denied access to the Camp and therefore to the school. An international member of UNRWA staff, sent by Mr. Cook to assess the situation, was ordered to leave the premises by the Israeli soldiers. The staff member reported that several hundred Palestinian males were being held at gunpoint in sitting positions with hands on their head. This action had commenced on the evening of 8th March, and the UNRWA staff member on the ground reported Israeli military vehicles touring the Camp with loudspeakers demanding that all males over the age of fourteen report to the School or suffer the consequences.

The Director has protested to the Ministry of Defence in the strongest terms and insisted that the IDF leave the premises. This action has followed a pattern of UNRW A schools in refugee camps being used by the IDF for strategic purposes since the incursion into camps began on 27th February 2002.

Mr. Cook said "The humanitarian situation in Tulkarem Camp is becoming critical, with shortages of the basic needs of the population, including food, water and baby milk. Those that have died in the last few days in Tulkarem still await burial including our own staff member, Kamal Hamdan, who was killed whilst accompanying a UN ambulance on Thursday evening. In the last few days, the Commissioner-General, Peter Hansen, and I have visited Balata, Jenin and Tulkarem and those that we have spoken to in the refugee camps are clearly in fear of their lives and have pleaded with the international community to put an end to such actions. As I speak, other camps are being subjected to similar incursions."

For Information Only
Not an Official Document
For more information contact: Sami Mshasha on (972) 050 317 094

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