(JTA) — Hamas condemned the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees for stopping food distribution after rioters stormed the organization’s Gaza offices.
The decision by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA, to suspend food distribution was “overbown and unjust,” Hamas spokesman Sammi abu-Zuhari was quoted as saying Friday by Israel Radio. “Palestinian refugees have a right to stage nonviolent protests.”
On Thursday, dozens of Gazans broke into UNRWA’s offices, according to Reuters and UNRWA’s own account of the event. The rioters were angry at UNRWA for stopping a monthly cash stipend for poor families.
Israel Radio reported the stipends were suspended because of budget cuts. UNRWA announced the suspension of food distribution the same day.
"What happened today was completely unacceptable: The situation could very easily have resulted in serious injuries to UNRWA staff and to the demonstrators," Robert Turner, the head of the agency’s Gaza operations, said in a statement. "This escalation, apparently pre-planned, was unwarranted and unprecedented.
"All relief and distribution centers will consequently remain closed until guarantees are given by all relevant groups that UNRWA operations can continue unhindered."
Some 800,000 Palestinians receive UNRWA assistance.