John Ging (born 1965) is an Irish national and former officer in the Irish Army who served as head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the Gaza Strip from 2006 to 2011. As head of the United Nations' 10,000 employee operation there, he became a sought-after commentator by the media and an information source for foreign governments during Israel's 2008-2009 offensive in Gaza.
Ging grew up one of four brothers in Portlaoise. He attended secondary school at the Salesian College in Ballinakill. In 1983, he joined the Irish Army, where he rose to the rank of captain. Along the way he earned a BA in political science and a degree in law from the National University of Ireland, Galway and subsequently qualified as a barrister.
Humanitarian mission in Africa
In 1994 Ging was seconded by the Irish government to work with the Irish aid agency GOAL to oversee relief efforts in the wake of the Rwandan Genocide, mostly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to colleagues who worked with him at the time, he took on difficult jobs like arranging the mass burial of 40,000 refugees who died when cholera swept through their camp.
Working in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo
After his time in Africa he worked for eight years as Chief of Staff for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Following that he had a brief stint as head of the United Nations' mission in Kosovo.
Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza
Ging voluntarily resigned his commission in 2002 and, following his departure from Kosovo, he took up his position as Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza. Ging has overseen the agency's roughly $450 million budget in Gaza since February 1, 2006, responsible for development programs as well as for providing basic needs to 1.1 million refugees. In 2007, he survived an assassination attempt by unidentified gunmen. He gained international prominence during the 2008-2009 Israeli offensive in Gaza as he warned of a humanitarian "catastrophe unfolding" as a consequence of the fighting and criticized Israel for firing upon UN compounds and other buildings he described as non-military. On January 9, 2009 Ging suspended UN aid work in Gaza after a UN aid convoy and a number of UN buildings were hit by Israeli fire, saying he'd "lost confidence" that aid work could continue safely. Ging ordered UN aid work to resume in Gaza after a cease-fire was established on January 18, 2009, though there were signs that Ging's operation could be hampered by intra-Palestinian disputes.
Assassination attempts and death threats
Ging has survived two assassination attempts. On March 16, 2007, a "masked gunman fired at least 14 bullets at Ging's armoured car as it travelled through Gaza". Sources in UNWRA, reported that Ging's armoured vehicle was attacked by three gunmen. According to that source 11 bullets pierced the armored vehicle although Ging was not hurt. According to UNRWA spokeswoman Gina Benevento the attack was a kidnapping attempt. Benevento said that the gunmen used a car to block Ging's convoy and attempted to force him out of his armored vehicle. "When it became clear that the vehicle doors were locked, they opened fire directly on the car, resulting in 11 bullet holes in the vehicle's side."
In the summer of 2007 a second attempt was made on Ging's life. The attack left one Palestinian dead and 7 wounded.
In 2010 "there was an attack on a site where the UNRWA was hosting summer games for children from Gaza. Three bullets and a note were left behind as a warning for Mr. Ging".
Director of UNOCHA CRD
Ging left Gaza in early 2011 for a new post in UN headquarters. He is presently Director of the Coordination and Response Division at the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in New York. Since arriving in New York Ging has been a vociferous advocate for the work of UNOCHA. At the same time he has sought to strengthen UNOCHA by appointing many former UNRWA staff members to various positions within the organization.
- "In the eye of the storm". The Irish Times. 2009-01-17. Retrieved 2009-01-17.
- "Gaza's fight for light". Irish Sunday Business Post. 2008-01-27. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
- "An Irish voice bringing horror of attack to the world". Irish Independent. 2009-01-10.
- "Attack on relief envoy denounced". UPI. 2007-03-17.
- McGreal, Chris (2009-01-04). "Life in the Gaza Strip as the Israeli assault intensifies". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
- "UN halts Gaza aid after convoy hit". Al Jazeera English. 2009-01-09.
- U.N. Agency says Hamas seized Gaza aid | Reuters, February 4, 2009
- Harriet Sherwood "UN in Gaza orders weapons to protect its head", The Guardian, 5 November 2010
- "Attack on relief envoy denounced", United Press International, March 17, 2007
- News Agencies "UN aid chief calls on PA to track down gunmen who attacked him", Haaretz, 16 March 2007
- Louise Hogan, "Security fears for UN chief in Gaza Strip", Irish Independent, November 13, 2010
- AlertNet, "AlertNet News Blog - Outspoken UN Gaza head quits for OCHA HQ", January 20, 2011
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