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UN suspends aid in Gaza after protesters storm headquarters

Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters

A Palestinian man holds his identity card as he takes part in a protest at a United Nations food distribution center in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday. On Thursday, the U.N. suspended aid distribution there after protesters stormed the aid headquarters.

GAZA, West Bank -- The main United Nations humanitarian agency for Palestinians said on Thursday it was suspending operations in the Gaza Strip after demonstrators angered by aid cutbacks stormed its headquarters.

Some 800,000 Palestinians, two-thirds of Gaza's population, depend on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and the closure could exacerbate hardship caused by Israeli and Egyptian controls on the isolated enclave's borders.

Citing budget shortfalls, UNRWA said it had suspended some of its cash handouts and that this provoked violent protests this week, culminating in Thursday's breach of its Gaza headquarters.

"What happened today was completely unacceptable: The situation could very easily have resulted in serious injuries to UNRWA staff and to the demonstrators. This escalation, apparently pre-planned, was unwarranted and unprecedented," Robert Turner, head of the agency's Gaza operations, said in a statement.

"All relief and distribution centers will consequently remain closed until guarantees are given by all relevant groups that UNRWA operations can continue unhindered," he said.

Gaza security officials had no immediate comment.

Reuters

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