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Masked vandals damage UNRWA summer camp

June 28, 2010 11:15 A.M. (Updated: June 29, 2010 9:38 P.M.)
Gaza – Ma'an – A second UNRWA summer camp facility was burned Monday morning, with camp officials saying 25 masked men entered the An-Nusseriat camp and assaulted the guards.

A statement from UNRWA said the summer camp's guards were "physically assaulted and handcuffed," but not injured,

Eyewitnesses accounts confirmed the UNRWA report, with locals saying vandals broke into the camp and tied up security guards, then set fire to equipment inside the facility. "It looks like serious damage," one resident said.

The UNRWA statement did not comment on the extent of the damages caused by the fire, but the agency's director of operations in Gaza, John Ging, noted that "the overwhelming success of UNRWA’s Summer Games has once again obviously frustrated those that are intolerant of children’s happiness."

A statement from the Gaza-based Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights said it collected testimony from one of the camp's guards, who said that large parts of the awnings set-up to demarcate camp areas and shade campers were damaged by fire that was started on the northern side of the camp. Also destroyed were several tables on the site, and a plastic swimming pool, which was ripped.

Officials at the agency called the incident a "cowardly and despicable act," and an example of the "growing levels of extremism in Gaza."

Ging cited it as "further evidence, if that were needed, of the urgency to change the circumstances on the ground that are generating such extremism."

The official said that UNRWA would rebuild the camp immediately and continue with its summer camp schedule, which Ging described as "important for the physical and psychological wellbeing of Gaza’s children, so many of whom are stressed and traumatised by their circumstances and experiences.”

Ging also complimented the emergency services who were quick to respond and ensured that the damage caused by the attack was minimized.

The arson was the second attack on an UNRWA summer camp facility in the last 30 days. The camp destroyed on Monday provides two shifts of summer activities for 250 children per shift. A similar incident was reported on 23 May, when an under construction camp facility was also torched near the Gaza City beach.

Summer camps from UNRWA began on 12 June, and will continue to 5 August. Last summer, the government in Gaza offered alternative camps, as well as sessions focused on the memorization of the Quran.
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