By Dallas Steele,
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
- The burnt remains of the summer camp (Photo Courtesy of CNN.com)
GAZA CITY, Gaza – A children’s summer camp in Gaza was burned to the ground by a group of masked men on Sunday. The men broke in to the camp, tied and beat up a security guard, and burned the tents and plastic swimming pools that had been set up for the camp. While no one was injured by the fire, the summer camp, sponsored by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), was due to open mere hours before its destruction occurred.
A group of suspects was arrested by Hamas leaders in Gaza on Tuesday, but no group has yet claimed responsibility for the destruction of the camp. It is widely believed, however, that the attack was carried out by a band of Islamic extremists who are opposed to summer camps that allow boys and girls to mingle. John Ging, UNRWA’s Gaza director, has told reporters that the attack was committed by people with an “extremist mentality.”
The ruined summer camp is one of the largest of the several UNRWA camps across the occupied Palestinian territory. After destroying the camp, the masked militants left behind three bullets and a letter addressed to the United Nations warning them to stop sponsoring the summer camps.
Ging has reportedly remained defiant and vowed to not allow such acts to intimidate UNRWA. Furthermore, he pledged to not only continue all other camps in Gaza as planned, but to also repair the damaged camp.
The attack comes as a major loss for children in the area as nearly 250,000 campers are known to attend every summer. Additionally, many parents now fear for the safety of their children from similar attacks in the future.
It is speculated that the recent attack is another in a handful of attacks executed by small, radical groups looking to impose Islamic law in Gaza, something Hamas has yet to do since its takeover of the territory in June 2007.
For more information, please see:
CNN — Gaza summer camp burned, witnesses say — 23 May 2010
Al Jazeera — Gaza children’s camp destroyed — 23 May 2010
Yahoo! News — Hamas makes arrest over torching of UN summer camp — 25 May 2010