Gunmen set fire to second UN summer camp in Gaza

      GAZA CITY (AFP) - Masked gunmen set fire to a UN-run summer camp in the 
Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip overnight in the second such attack in just over a 
month, the UN refugee agency said on Monday.

      The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) condemned 
the attack, which appeared to be the work of Muslim extremists who view the 
camps as a symbol of Western corruption because boys and girls mingle freely.

      "This is another example of the growing levels of extremism in Gaza and 
further evidence, if that were needed, of the urgency to change the 
circumstances on the ground," UNRWA Gaza Director John Ging said.

      UN spokesman Adnan Abu Hasna said the attackers tied up the guards at the 
camp in central Gaza before setting fire to chairs, tables, easels and other 

      UNRWA vowed to repair the camp and said it would continue to maintain its 
1,200 summer camps, in which over 250,000 Gaza children participate in sports, 
swimming, arts and theatre during the summer break.

      The Hamas-run interior ministry condemned the attack and blamed it on 
"groups led by those with misguided ideas who want to distort the situation in 

      It said it had opened an investigation and offered to provide extra 
security at the camps.

      Hamas had also condemned the previous attack on May 23, in which dozens 
of masked gunmen had tied up a night watchman, burned down tents and left a 
threatening letter addressed to Ging.

      Hamas has taken only limited steps to impose Islamic values on Gaza's 
already conservative society since it seized power in June 2007, routing the 
secular Fateh movement that dominates the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.

      The Islamist group operates its own network of summer camps that separate 
boys and girls and focus on teaching the Koran.

      In recent years more radical groups have carried out several bombings and 
other attacks targeting Christian organisations, beauty parlours and cafes 
catering to men and women, rarely wounding anyone.

      UNRWA provides vital food aid and runs schools and clinics for Gaza's 
more than one million registered refugees, two-thirds of the territory's 

      Most of Gaza's refugees are the descendants of the hundreds of thousands 
of Palestinians who were driven out or fled from what is now Israel during the 
1948 war that resulted in the creation of Israel.

      29 June 2010 

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