The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees said Monday it was temporarily withdrawing part of its foreign staff from the Gaza Strip following security concerns linked to job cuts in the Palestinian enclave.
It said in a statement it had “decided to temporarily withdraw part of its international staff from Gaza following a series of worrying security incidents affecting its personnel in the strip.”
A source with the agency said around 10 staff members crossed into Israel from the Gaza Strip on Monday.
The Israeli defense ministry unit that oversees the crossing said an unspecified number of foreign employees from the agency known as UNRWA “were evacuated from the Gaza Strip to Israel”.
UNRWA employees in the strip have held strikes, sit-ins and other protests since the agency announced in July it was cutting more than 250 jobs in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.
Hundreds of full-time roles have also become part-time.
Laid-off workers warn that their families will be at serious risk in blockaded Gaza, where unemployment is at some 53 percent.
The cuts come as a result of U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to cancel all aid to the agency.
The UNRWA source said a protest was held Monday outside a Gaza City hotel where agency officials were meeting.
The agency’s statement said that “earlier today, a number of staff were harassed and prevented from carrying out their duties”.
“Some of these actions have specifically targeted the UNRWA management in Gaza,” it said.
It called on the authorities in the enclave run by Islamist movement Hamas “to respond to its repeated demands to provide effective protection to its employees and facilities.”
The United States has traditionally been UNRWA’s largest contributor, providing around $350 million a year, but Trump has cancelled all support.
Around 13,000 people work for UNRWA in Gaza, where more than two-thirds of the roughly two million residents are eligible for aid.
The agency also says more than 200,000 Palestinians attend its schools in the Gaza Strip.
Despite the removal of part of its foreign staff, UNRWA operations were continuing in Gaza, the agency said.
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