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Middle East Issues





UNICEF's Pernille Ironside Mum on Rockets in UNRWA Schools


UNICEF is a United Nations organization which says it advocates "for measures to give children the best start in life, because proper care at the youngest age forms the strongest foundation for a person's future."
 
One would expect then, that, UNICEF official Pernille Ironside, now in Gaza, would be spearheading a high-profile campaign against Hamas' repeated placement or rockets in schools run by UNICEF's sister agency, UNRWA. But instead of condemning Hamas' use of UNRWA schools as rocket depots, she ignores it. In a Skype interview yesterday with Gwen Ifill of PBS' "Newshour," Ironside remarks that "children are bearing the greatest brunt of this terrible conflict."
 
In response to Ifill's question as to where people go when they are seeking shelter, the UNICEF official stated:
Well, they're gathering around the main emergency hospital in Gaza, al-Shifa. They're gathering in mosques, in the orthodox church here in Gaza.
 
And they're also gathering in school compounds, both U.N. schools and now, as those have basically reached their capacity with over 120,000 people in them, people are also pouring into public school compounds.
 
I visited two of these public schools today just to see how people were coping. The vast majority of nearly 1,400 people in each compound were children. I would say about 70 percent. In one alone, I checked. There were 152 children were under the age of 2.
The UNICEF official, whose primary professional responsibility involves the "nurturing and caring for children," is completely silent about the exploitation of United Nations-administered schools as rocket storage facilities. While Ironside could not spare even a minimal few words about the gross abuse of the UN schools, UNRWA uncharacteristically denounced the placement of rockets in its schools.
 
"We involve everyone in creating protective environments for children," says the UNICEF Web site. Yet, in complete violation of her professional mandate, Ironside refuses to even acknowledge that Hamas is destroying those protective environments right under her nose.
 
(Sadly, at least 15 Palestinians were killed today at an UNRWA school in unclear circumstances. The Times of Israel reports in its live blog today:

Hamas prevented civilians from evacuating the UNRWA school-turned-shelter where a reported 15-plus people were killed earlier today, according to the IDF Spokesperson. The school was reportedly hit by an errant IDF mortar shell and may have been hit by a Hamas rocket.

The IDF tweets that last night, it told the Red Cross to evacuate civilians from the Beit Hanoun shelter between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and both UNRWA and the Red Cross got the message.

The military says that this morning, Hamas fired at IDF troops from a populated area near the shelter, and also prevented the evacuation of civilians from the area.

It adds that earlier today, “several rockets launched from Gaza toward Israel fell short and hit Beit Hanoun.”

The assessment in the IDF is that “apparently” a mortar shell went off course and hit the courtyard, says Channel 2's Roni Daniel. At the same time, a Hamas rocket may also have hit the courtyard. Hamas was targeting IDF troops in the area, he adds.)

It's not only UNRWA schools which have been transformed into rocket storage and launching sites. Ironside also ignores the use of non-UNRWA schools as rocket storage and launching sites.
 
 
As for Ifill, in this softball interview, she does not question the UNICEF woman about how the placement of rockets in UNRWA's schools contributes to creating a protective environment.
 
And though Ironside mentions Shifa Hospital as another refuge to which civilians are fleeing, she -- and Ifill -- ignore that the Hamas leadership have settled into the hospital-cum-Hamas headquarters. As William Booth of the Washington Post reported:
At the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, crowds gathered to throw shoes and eggs at the Palestinian Authority's health minister, who represents the crumbling "unity government" in the West Bank city of Ramallah. The minister was turned away before he reached the hospital, which has become a de facto headquarters for Hamas leaders, who can be seen in the hallways and offices.
Families have also sought shelters in mosques, noted Ironside, while simultaneously ignoring the fact that Hamas has exploited these holy sanctuaries as well, once again destroying protective environments.
 
A separate Washington Post article reported July 17:
During the lull, a group of men at a mosque in northern Gaza said they had returned to clean up the green glass from windows shattered in the previous day's bombardment. But they could be seen moving small rockets into the mosque.
Satellite images from Israel Defense Forces
 
Finally, regarding UNICEF's mandate to create protective environments for children, why doesn't Ironside address the 600,000 tons of concrete poured into underground tunnels for Hamas terrorists instead of schools, homes or shelters for Gaza's children? And why is PBS' Ifill also silent?
 

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