Israel condemns re-assignment of senior UN official who criticised 'indiscriminate' Gaza rockets

Sarah Muscroft is a British aid worker serving in the West Bank and Gaza


Head of Office for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) for the occupied Palestinian Territory Sarah Muscroft visits, with a delegation, the Um Qussah school, slated for demolition by Israeli authorities within area C (where Israel retains control, including over planning and construction) of the occupied West Bank, in the vicinity of the Palestinian village of Khashm al-Daraj in the southern area of Yatta, on February 8, 2021. (Photo by HAZEM BADER / AFP) (Photo by HAZEM BADER/AFP via Getty Images)

Israel's ambassador to the UN has reacted furiously after a senior UN official was removed from her post in Jerusalem after she tweeted condemning indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza.

British aid worker Sarah Muscroft, who works for The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the West Bank and Gaza, tweeted last week she was “relieved” to see an end to the rocket fire that was “impacting both Palestinians and Israeli civilians” as well as condemning the “indiscriminate rocket fire of Islamic Jihad."

Following her social media post, Muscroft deleted her tweet, calling the remarks "ill-informed" and saying: "I sincerely apologize for my poor judgment. All civilians — everywhere — must be able to live in peace.” She later deleted her entire Twitter account.

On Saturday, OCHA deputy spokesman Jens Laerke told The Times of Israel that Muscroft had been re-assigned.

In a statement, Laerke said: “OCHA has been present in the occupied Palestinian territory for the past 20 years, working to help meet humanitarian needs, guided by the humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality, and humanity. Over two million people in the occupied Palestinian territory need assistance — they remain our only focus and priority.”

The response from the UN drew the ire of Gilad Erdan, Israel's permanent representative to the global body, who called on the Secretary-General to reinstate Muscroft.

In an open letter to Secretary-General Guterres, Erdan said: "While we have not always agreed with all of Ms. Muscroft's tweets, or those of her UN counterparts, Israeli disagreement or criticism has been expressed in a normative way.

"However, Israel is disturbed to see that Palestinian outrage over tweets would so quickly devolve into ending the ability of a senior UN staffer to keep her job, and to express herself.

"This norm effectively grants the Palestinian players and the local UN staff an 'unwritten veto' over UN statements, and stands in clear contradiction with the basic principles of objectivity and neutrality that the UN claims to hold."

Erdan also referenced earlier incidents of UN staff not being supported by the organisation after making statements seemingly offering a pro-Israel point of view.

He pointed to the example of UNWRA representative Matthew Schmale who was recalled from his post in 2021 after saying that there was "huge sophistication" in the way the IDF operated in Gaza.

Erdan also called attention to the recent furore over comments made by Human Rights Council Commissioner Miloon Kothari, who is leading an investigation into Israel following the 2021 conflict with Hamas in Gaza.

In a podcast interview last month, Kothari insinuated that social media was under the control of the "Jewish lobby."

He also said he didn't understand why Israel was "even a member of the United Nations" causing Israeli PM Yair Lapid to intervene and call for the axing of the probe.

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