Palestinian anger as Washington ends funding for UN agency

- Agence France-Presse, GAZA CITY

Sep 2, 2018-

Palestinians reacted angrily Saturday to a US decision to end all funding for the UN agency that assists three million needy refugees, seeing it as a new policy shift aimed at undermining their cause.

Washington, which until last year was by far the biggest contributor to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees, announced on Friday that it would no longer make any contributions to the “irredeemably flawed operation.”

President Donald Trump’s administration has backed Israel in accusing the nearly 70-year-old agency of perpetuating the Middle East conflict by maintaining the idea that many Palestinians are refugees with a right to return to homes in what is now Israel, something they both oppose.

But to Palestinians, the right of return for the hundreds of thousands who fled or were expelled during the 1948 war that accompanied Israel’s creation is a central plank of their cause.

Its calling into question by Trump follows his December recognition of the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and axing of more than $200 million in bilateral aid for Gaza and the West Bank.

The new policy on Jerusalem overturned decades of precedent and prompted the Palestinian leadership to break off relations with the White House.

Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashwrawi described the latest US move as “cruel and irresponsible”.

“The Palestinian refugees are already the victims who have lost their homes, livelihoods and security as a result of the creation of the state of Israel,” she said.

“Once again, they are being victimised by the US administration in support of Israel’s decades-long military occupation and impunity.”

UNRWA was already facing a financial crisis after Trump announced a $300 million funding freeze in January but now faces the threat of major closures to its network of schools and health centres.

In the impoverished Gaza Strip, where most children learn in UNRWA schools, the US decision has raised fears for their future education.

“If they stop the aid completely it would have a major effect on our children,” said Abu Mohammed Huweila, 40, from the Jabalia camp in northern Gaza.

Published: 02-09-2018 09:20

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