Hamas preventing UN staffer from leaving Gaza
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Hamas preventing UN staffer from leaving Gaza

Head of World Health Organization’s local office has movement restricted in apparent bid to pressure aid groups

Kerem Shalom crossing seen closed from the Gazan side in the southern Gaza Strip, June 7, 2015. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Kerem Shalom crossing seen closed from the Gazan side in the southern Gaza Strip, June 7, 2015. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

GAZA CITY (AP) — A United Nations official says the Islamic militant group Hamas has prevented a senior employee of the international organization from leaving the Gaza Strip.

The official said Mahmoud Daher, the Palestinian head of the World Health Organization’s Gaza office, was barred from leaving Thursday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the incident.

The official said Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since a bloody 2007 coup against rival group Fatah, announced two weeks ago that international organizations would need a Hamas-issued exit permit when leaving the territory into Israel. The organization had previously been exempt from acquiring the permit. The UN asked for a month to study the request.

The move appears to be an attempt by Hamas to exert its influence on the UN, which provides assistance to hundreds of thousands of impoverished Gazans through its United Nations Relief and World Agency (UNRWA), a dedicated organization for Palestinian refugees.

Palestinians receive their monthly food aid at a United Nations distribution center in the Rafah refugee camp, in southern Gaza Strip, February 8, 2015 (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Palestinians receive their monthly food aid at a United Nations distribution center in the Rafah refugee camp, in southern Gaza Strip, February 8, 2015 (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Earlier this week, the International Committee of the Red Cross briefly shuttered its Gaza office after protesters repeatedly tried to storm it.

Dozens of Gazans had protested daily at the office in recent weeks in solidarity with a Palestinian hunger striker detained by Israel, demanding that the Red Cross help bring about his release. They tried to enter the building forcefully on Sunday, smashing garage windows and causing other damage.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.

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