GAZA, Palestinian Territories – Monday, June 28, 2010: Two dozen masked terrorists targeted a seaside day camp in central Gaza, one of dozens of U.N. sites across the Palestinian territory. The terrorists stormed into a United Nations children’s camp in Gaza, attacked and handcuffed the camp guards and set the place on fire.
UN workers stated the facility sustained heavy damage. The assailants arrived at about 2:30 a.m., tied up four unarmed guards, then set fire to two tents and a perimeter fence made from tarp-like material. Wielding knives, they slashed a plastic swimming pool, an inflatable slide, burning and slashing tents and toys.
John Ging, the local U.N. chief, called it a “cowardly and despicable” attack. The about 2,000 children who attend the targeted facility joined another camp and will remain there until theirs is rebuilt. Ging stated the attack was the latest sign of growing levels of extremism in Gaza. He stated it provides further evidence “of the urgency to change the circumstances on the ground that are generating such extremism.”
U.N. camps have been targeted by Islamic extremists since their launch in 2007. Assailants vandalized one of the main camp sites, and last year a Hamas legislator waged a public campaign against the U.N. summer program. In late May terrorists set fire to the United Nation’s’ largest Gaza summer camp and left behind bullets and a note threatening to kill John Ging, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) head in Gaza. At that time, Fatah blamed Hamas for the incident, accusing the Islamic terrorist group of “targeting the education process and the UNRWA curriculum.”
The UN camps have faced criticism from Islamist organizations, including Salafi groups that consider Hamas too moderate. In recent months, Hamas has become increasingly assertive in trying to impose its strict version of Islam on everyday life in Gaza. Salafi terrorists have been behind previous attacks in Gaza, including dozens of bombings targeting music stores, restaurants, Internet cafes and pharmacies. Islamic extremists have accused the main U.N. aid agency of corrupting Gaza’s youth with its summer program of games, sports and human rights lessons for 250,000 children.
The U.N.’s main competitor in running summer camps is the ruling Islamic militant Hamas, which alleges it reaches some 100,000 children. Hamas opened its own summer camps as an alternative to UNRWA. The Hamas camps focus on teaching the Koran and terrorist philosophy, including hatred of non Muslims and many include paramilitary training.
However, the Islamists have avoided open confrontation with the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which provides services for two-thirds of Gaza’s 1.5 million people. The U.N. avoids contact with Hamas, which is internationally shunned as a terror group.