Israel’s Foreign Ministry criticizes UN agency for ‘one-sided political advocacy’

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Foreign Ministry took a United Nations agency to task for its “one-sided political advocacy” in condemning the deaths of three Palestinians during clashes with Israeli soldiers in a refugee camp.

“Israel regrets the fatalities that resulted from yesterday’s military operation to arrest a Palestinian terrorist suspect,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement released on Wednesday, which criticized the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, or UNRWA, for its assertion in the hours after the incident that a Palestinian agency employee who was killed was not involved in the violence.

The clashes in the Qalandiya refugee camp, which also injured 15, took place on Monday morning.

Border Police troops dressed as civilians entered the camp to arrest a terror suspect who was released recently from an Israeli prison, and camp residents responded by surrounding and attacking the troops with rocks and firebombs. The troops responded with “crowd dispersal methods,” according to the Israeli military, which usually includes rubber bullets shot at demonstrators’ legs and tear gas.

The Israel Defense Forces launched an investigation into the incident.

“We were disappointed (but not surprised) at UNRWA’s press statement from yesterday. While omitting to mention any context or reason for the Israeli operation, it was quick to cite ‘credible reports’ in determining that its employee had been shot ‘…on his way to work, and was not involved in any violent activity.’ Quite aside from the fact that UNRWA did not even bother to approach any official Israeli sources for comment, its statement was rushed to the press while the violent riots were still raging on in Qalandiya,” the ministry statement said, questioning how the agency could have gathered the information so quickly in order to assert its facts.

“It is regrettable that UNRWA has consistently failed to display similar zeal and enthusiasm when asked to investigate its own cases of alleged wrongdoing,” the ministry statement said, referring to the agency’s decision to investigate the use of its summer camps for jihadist training.

UNRWA spokesman Chris Guinness told Israeli newspapers that the agency has what he called “six independent eyewitnesses” to the incident and that the agency stands by its statement “absolutely.”