x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

UN aid officials in Gaza and West Bank to quit

Heads of Gaza and West Bank operations depart.

JERUSALEM // The top two United Nations officials for coordinating aid to Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have announced they will be leaving their positions.

John Ging, the United Nations' Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) director of operations in Gaza, and his West Bank counterpart, Barbara Shenstone, made the announcement in a joint statement posted on the UN agency's website on Monday.

The reasons for their impending departures have not been made public.

Mr Ging, who served in Gaza for nearly five years, will take a senior position at the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in New York, the UNRWA statement said.

A former captain in the Irish army, Mr Ging made a name for himself as an unflinching, sometimes outspoken, official. He reportedly survived at least two assassination attempts in Gaza and, in late December 2008, stayed on when Israel launched its devastating three-week war on the territory.

Adnan Abu Hasna, UNRWA's spokesman in Gaza, said Mrs Shenstone had resigned from her position and would be returning to her native Canada at the end of March.

Mrs Shenstone was at the centre of controversy late last year when several thousand UNRWA employees went on strike over wages. Her handling of the dispute was criticised by Palestinians, but Mr Abu Hasna denied this was the reason for her resignation.

"She resigned because she spent four years in the West Bank. It is a normal thing," Mr Hasna said. "She's going back to Canada. We don't know what is next for her."

The agency has yet to select replacements for the two officials, he said.

UNRWA, established after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, provides aid to about 4.7 million registered Palestinian refugees in the Middle East.

hnaylor@thenational.ae