The main UN humanitarian agency for Palestinians said on Thursday it was suspending operations in the Gaza Strip after demonstrators angered by aid cutbacks stormed its headquarters.
Some 800,000 Palestinians, two-thirds of Gaza's population, depend on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and the shuttering could exacerbate hardship caused by Israeli and Egyptian controls on the isolated enclave's borders.
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Citing budget shortfalls, UNRWA said it had suspended some of its cash handouts and that this provoked violent protests this week, culminating in Thursday's breach of its Gaza headquarters.
Women protest in front of UNRWA offices (Photo: Reuters)
"What happened today was completely unacceptable: the situation could very easily have resulted in serious injuries to UNRWA staff and to the demonstrators. This escalation, apparently pre-planned, was unwarranted and unprecedented," Robert Turner, head of the agency's Gaza operations.
"All relief and distribution centers will consequently remain closed until guarantees are given by all relevant groups that UNRWA operations can continue unhindered," he said in a statement.
Gaza security officials had no immediate comment.
Turner said that despite the trimming of cash disbursements, UNRWA's food distribution in Gaza "will continue unchanged".
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