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On Hanging of Palestine Refugees, UNRWA Warns of Retaliation, Clarifies

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 11 -- A week after two Palestinian refugees were executed by hanging by Syrian rebels near Damascus, Filippo Grandi, the Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East came to speak at the UN.

  Inner City Press asked him about the hangings, whether UNRWA has any idea which rebel group was behind them and if such information would be shared with the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria.

  Grandi said the UN does not know who did it -- it or the aftermath is on YouTube -- but is concerned about retaliation aimed at Palestinian refugees. He said the longer the conflict goes on, then more that the refugees can get swept up in it.

  (A year and a day previously, Grandi also appeared at the UN, fielding questions about among other topics the Nahr al-Bared camp. Neither it nor the Gaza marathon being cancelled after women's participation was banned came up on Monday morning.)

  Earlier in his press conference, as the first question in fact, UNCA President Pamela Falk of CBS asked Grandi if he had earlier in the day told UN Radio that if the Security Council doesn't form a Palestinian state, there will be more deaths.

  No, no, Grandi insisted, he had been referring to Syria, in the same way that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Lakhdar Brahimi speak of the conflict there. Yes, it WOULD be news if an UNRWA chief called on the Security Council and US to form a Palestinian state.

  Inner City Press also asked about the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza. Grandi and his spokesman (and playwright) Christopher Gunness indicted that the crossing has been re-opened; Grandi added that it is narrow and more crossing are needed.

  No one asked about the cancellation by UNRWA of the Gaza marathon, after women were banned. And so it goes at the UN.

Footnotes: the UNCA first question to Grandi is another reason that tradition should be abolished -- add it to the fiasco of UNCA insisting on getting the first question to Bolivian President Evo Morales, even when he said no. Apparently UN system officials still do it automatically. But should they?

  The new Free UN Coalition for Access, which thanked Grandi, is also pushing for public answers from the Department of Public Information to the issues raised last week, and the ten most needed rule changes proposed on February 10. We'll have more on this.

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