'Mutiny' at UN Palestinian agency in Gaza after job cuts: official
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) announced last month more than 250 staff in Gaza and the occupied West Bank would lose their jobs, after a USD 300 million cut in annual funding from the United States.
"They have taken over the compound where my office and other offices are," said Matthias Schmale.
"I am the captain of the ship which has 13,000 sailors on it and they have basically thrown me off the bridge and consigned me to my captain's quarters," he told AFP, referring to the number of employees in Gaza.
It operates more than 200 schools in the enclave, which may not open at the start of the academic year without new funding and an end to the labor dispute.
For me, that crosses a red line." "I am very concerned about the safety and security of my Palestinian colleagues," he added.
The union denied all allegations of intimidation and is due to continue demonstrating, with a general strike expected in the coming days unless a deal is reached.
Today the UNRWA compound was visited by Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas member, who pledged his Islamist movement's full support for protesters.
Schmale said any visit by a figure from Hamas -- considered a terrorist organization by the US and European Union -- was forbidden as it breaches the UN's impartiality rules.
"I didn't know that Mahmoud Zahar showed up but clearly political players are involved in this and are using this UNRWA crisis to more broadly address issues around the right to return, etc." The right of return refers to the demand that Palestinian refugees who fled or were expelled from their homes during the 1948 war surrounding Israel's creation and their descendants are allowed back.
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