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Middle East
Gaza children's camp destroyed
UNRWA chief defiant after masked men ask the UN agency to stop organising such camps.
Last Modified: 23 May 2010 11:50 GMT
Armed men attack and torched a UN-run summer camp for boys and girls of the Gaza Strip

Dozens of masked men have broken into a UN-run Gaza summer camp for children and set it on fire, after beating up the guard and destroying the plastic tents.

The men blocked Gaza Strip's main coastal highway on Sunday before destroying the facility, one of the largest of several summer camps across the occupied Palestinian territory run by UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

"The militants gave the guard three bullets and a letter warning the UN to stop having summer camps like these," Al Jazeera's Nicole Johston, reporting from Gaza, said.

John Ging, UNRWA's Gaza director, said: "UNRWA will not be intimidated by these attacks. UNRWA will repair this location."

He said that the attack was carried out by people with an "extremist mentality" and vowed to continue his agency's work in Gaza.

No one claimed the attack, but it appeared to have been carried out by Muslim groups who may be opposed to the camps because they allow boys and girls to mingle.

Gaza's police force was investigating the incident, and Ihab al-Ghussein, the interior ministry spokesman, said "the action is strongly condemned and those behind it will be held accountable".

Our correspondent said that although this was the first time the camp had been attacked, there was concern that parents may not send their children to the camp due to safety concerns.

"Usually around 250,000 children attend this camp over summer. This one is the biggest of about four in Gaza," she said.

The Gaza Strip has been administered by Hamas since June 2007, when it took control of the territory after routing forced loyal to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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