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Israeli security arrests Gaza-based UN official en route to Jerusalem

July 17, 2017 6:20 P.M. (Updated: July 18, 2017 12:46 P.M.)
Palestinians walk through the Erez border crossing with Israel in the northern Gaza Strip as they cross into Gaza, on June 09, 2010. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces have detained a United Nations official based in the besieged Gaza Strip, with neither the UN nor Israeli authorities commenting publicly on the case five days after the arrest.

According to local NGO the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, Hamdan Muhammad Hassan Timraz, the assistant regional director for UN Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) in the Gaza Strip, was detained on July 12 at Israel’s Erez crossing, the only crossing Palestinians in Gaza can use to travel to Israel or the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory.

Timraz, 61, had obtained a permit to travel to Jerusalem to meet with the general manager of UNDSS’ Jerusalem office, according to Al-Mezan’s statement, which highlighted that Timraz regularly traveled outside of Gaza for work.

Timraz’s wife Niemeh Salih Timraz, 54, told the NGO that the family lost contact with him after he arrived at Erez crossing. It wasn’t until Thursday that Israeli security services telephoned Timraz’s 24-year-old son Abd al-Hadi and notified him that his father was under arrest.

A spokesperson for Israel’s security service, the Shin Bet, could not immediately be reached for comment, however, an Israeli security source confirmed the arrest to an Israeli journalist, who said the news was under gag order in Israel.

Ma’an has reached out to UNDSS for comment, which has not commented publicly on the case.

The arrest came after Israel has accused a number of NGO workers based in the Gaza Strip of being affiliated to or aiding Hamas, Gaza’s de facto leading party, in the past year, including employees of UNRWA, UNDP, World Vision, and Save the Children.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also notably called for UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for Palestinian refugees, to be dismantled.

Al-Mezan said of Timraz’s arrest that “such Israeli practices are aimed at blocking the work of the international organizations in the Gaza Strip,” and pointed out that eight employees working in these organizations have been arrested since the beginning of 2014.

The rights group added that “hundreds of employees are denied the permits required to enter or exit Gaza to be able to follow up their organizations’ work, not to mention the Israeli incitement campaigns they are exposed to.”

Gaza's two million residents marked their tenth year under Israeli blockade last month.

Five years after the United Nations warned that Gaza could become unlivable by 2020, a new UN report determined that the situation there maybe have already reached that stage. In addition to ongoing energy and health crises, more than half of Gaza’s two million residents suffer from food insecurity.
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