Both Heads of UNRWA in Gaza, Judea and Samaria Resign

The directors of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, Judea and Samaria have both quit their jobs. Neither gave an explanation.

Contact Editor
Chana Ya'ar, | updated: 19:50

UNRWA director John Ging
UNRWA director John Ging
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The directors of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, Judea and Samaria have both quit their jobs. Neither gave an explanation.

John Ging, director of UNRWA's Gaza operations, will join the U.N.'s New York-based Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, according to a statement by UNRWA commissioner-general Filippo Grandi. Barbara Shenstone, head of UNRWA operations in Judea and Samaria, will return to her native Canada.

“Barbara and John have made exceptional contributions to UNRWA's work under the most difficult circumstances: their commitment to ensuring the quality of UNRWA services has been extraordinary,” Grandi added.

Neither Ging nor Shenstone released a statement of their own on the matter.

“John has got a very impressive appointment to a New York headquarters position and Barbara has wanted to leave for a while. There is no connection at all” between the two resignations, UNRWA's Jerusalem-based spokesman Chris Gunness told Israel National News Monday evening.

Gunness sidestepped further attempts to probe the reason for the resignations.

In response to a query as to whether the decision was connected to the recent escalation in attacks on Israel by splinter terrorist groups in Gaza, Gunness replied tersely, “Not at all.”

John Ging, director of the UNRWA operation in Gaza since February 2006, found himself caught in the dilemma of defending the legitimacy of his employees – many of whom have connections with terrorist entities –and warning those same employees to maintain neutrality while on the job.

It was a difficult balancing act, especially when Hamas police raided a UNRWA warehouse, stealing thousands of blankets and food parcels intended for the region's poor. He has in the past been the target of recriminations by the Hamas terrorist rulers of Gaza as well.

Ging also has been the target of several assassination attempts over the past year. In November, Israel allowed U.N. Security personnel in the region to arm themselves with four German-made submachine guns to fend off terrorists who have repeated tried to murder Ging.

Despite that, according to the Bethlehem-based Ma'an news agency, Ging is considered popular in Gaza, where the agency's operations expanded exponentially in the areas of education and health. UNRWA currently operates more than 200 schools in the Hamas terrorist-controlled region.

Arabs interviewed  in the Fatah-governed Palestinian Authority, however, apparently had no problem saying goodbye to Shenstone; she reportedly refused to negotiate with UNRWA workers during a strike a few months ago that shut down services in the region.

According to Ma'an, she had described workers' demands at the time as “absurd,” and refused to discuss paying “wages they didn't receive the last time they went on strike…”