Masked gunmen fired on a UN convoy

Masked gunmen fired on a UN convoy yesterday on Gaza’s main north-south highway after trying to kidnap a high ranking official from one of the vehicles. The attack on the convoy in which John Ging, the director of the UN Relief and Works Agency Gaza field office, was travelling came five days after the kidnap at gunpoint of the BBC correspondent in Gaza, Alan Johnston. Mr Johnston’s whereabouts are unknown though the BBC have been given indirect assurances that he is alive and well. 

Meanwhile, Hussein Asserhi, a member of an intelligence service under the control of the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, was shot dead in his car in the central Gaza town of Deir el Balah. The attack, which wounded another passenger, came the day after formation of a coalition government designed to end factional violence.

Mr Ging described the attack on the UNRWA convoy: “They tried to force open the car, but our driver extracted himself from that situation.” The agency’s commissioner-general, Karen Koning AbuZayd, condemned “this unprecedented attack on UN staff in Gaza”. UNRWA said that both Ms AbuZayd and Mr Ging would continue to be based in Gaza, though other international staff currently outside Gaza were being told to stay out.

There was no obvious motive for the attack. A completely separate UN agency, The UN Office for Project Services, has been training members of the mainly Fatah presidential guard to provide security at the Karni crossing but Gina Benevento, UNRWA’s spokesperson, pointed out that UNRWA – which is responsible for the welfare of almost a million refugees in Gaza – has distinctive blue markings known throughout Gaza. The agency’s schools educate 196,000 children in Gaza.

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