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Sunday 24 September 2017

Security fears for UN chief in Gaza Strip

Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

EXTRA security measures have been put in place following death threats and assassination attempts on the Irish-born head of a key UN agency in the Gaza Strip.

John Ging, a former Irish Army officer from Co Laois, has been outspoken in his support of the rights of Palestinian people in his role as head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza (UNRWA).

Four machine guns provided by the UN were delivered to the Gaza agency two weeks ago. The UN agency had first requested permits for importing the weapons from the Israeli authorities in 2007, following an assassination attempt on Mr Ging.

Mr Ging is also under guard by a UN close protection team armed with handguns. It is standard practice for UN officials anywhere in the world who find themselves in precarious or potentially dangerous situations to be provided with protection.

Christopher Gunness, a UN spokesman in the region, last night said: "We do not comment on security issues."

The Israeli Embassy in Dublin confirmed four permits for machine guns had been delivered to the UN agency in the past few weeks.

There have been a number of attempts on Mr Ging's life. In 2007, bullets were fired at his armoured car as he travelled in convoy through Gaza. Two months later there was an attack at a summer games for children and a person was killed.

Earlier this year, there was an attack on a site where the UNRWA was hosting summer games for children from Gaza. Three bullets and a note were left behind as a warning for Mr Ging.

The attacks are not believed to be the work of Hamas, who run Gaza, but of extremist Islamist groups there who are objecting to the UN agency's work in educational and social projects.

Refugees

Mr Ging, who is in his 40s, has been working on the ground in the Gaza Strip to help one million refugees. The former captain in the Irish Army was seconded by the Irish Government to act as a regional director with the aid agency Goal in 1994. Mr Ging, who is also qualified as a lawyer, worked as chief of staff for eight years in the UN mission in Kosovo.

The UNRWA is one of the largest UN bodies, with around 25,000 employees.

It was set up after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war to provide relief for the 700,000 Palestinian refugees uprooted by the war.

Irish Independent

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