Impact on Palestinians could be ‘catastrophic’ if US pulls funding — UN agency

Israeli soldiers set up a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus on Jan. 10, 2018. UNRWA was founded in 1949 to aid Palestinian refugees, provide educational and health services in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.(AFP)
Updated 12 January 2018
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Impact on Palestinians could be ‘catastrophic’ if US pulls funding — UN agency

BEIRUT: Losing significant funding from its largest donor, the US, could be “catastrophic” for Palestinians, said a UN agency that provides aid to Palestinian refugees.
Last week, President Donald Trump said the United States may withhold future aid payments to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) over what he called the Palestinians’ unwillingness to talk peace with Israel.
A State Department official later said that no decision had been made on payment.
The United States is the largest donor to the agency, with a pledge of nearly $370 million as of 2016, according to UNRWA’s website.
The UN agency, founded in 1949 to aid Palestinian refugees, provides educational and health services in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
“The human impact of losing significant funding could be catastrophic in the real lives of real people whom the UN is mandated to protect,” UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a statement.
“Palestine refugees are among some of the most vulnerable people in the Middle East. Our health services offer a life line, quite literally, to vulnerable women and children, the sick and the elderly,” he said.
On Tuesday the Swedish ambassador to the United Nations, Olof Skoog, said he was concerned that a withdrawal of funding for UNRWA “would be very negative both in terms of humanitarian needs of over 5 million people but also of course it would be destabilising for the region.”
Gunness said there was much at stake for the Palestinians.
“Even the most modest shock in a fragile society can have an inordinate impact and the consequences could be profound, widespread, dramatic and unpredictable,” he said.
Relations between the Palestinians and Washington soured last month after Trump announced the US would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, generating outrage across the Arab world and concern among Washington’s Western allies.
Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they seek to establish in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
US State Department spokesman Steve Goldstein told a briefing in Washington on Thursday that US funding for UNRWA was still under consideration and that no decision had yet been made.


Did lightning strike trigger Gaza rocket attack on Israel?

Updated 23 October 2018
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Did lightning strike trigger Gaza rocket attack on Israel?

  • Hamas took the unusual step of denying it had carried out an attack
  • Israeli cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi said there was reason to believe that was true

JERUSALEM: A theory that a lightning strike triggered Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza last week gained traction in Israel on Tuesday and might explain the Israeli military’s limited response.
Two rockets were launched from the Hamas-ruled enclave on Oct. 17. But the group took the unusual step of denying it had carried out an attack. Israeli cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi said there was reason to believe that was true.
One of the rockets wrecked a house in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, causing no casualties, the other landed in the Mediterranean Sea. Israel responded with air strikes that killed a militant in Gaza.
Soon afterwards, video appeared on social media showing lightning illuminating the night sky in Gaza and then two flaming rockets streaking into the air.
Israel’s best-selling daily, Yedioth Ahronoth, reported on Tuesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet now believed the lighting set off a launch mechanism.
Asked about the report, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, a member of the security cabinet, told Israel Radio: “I won’t discuss security cabinet meetings and I don’t know which ministers are chatting with journalists, but I can say that as far as we know, Hamas did not intend to fire those rockets.”
Hamas officials had no immediate comment.
The rocket launchings coincided with Egyptian efforts to broker a long-term cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, which have fought three wars in the past 10 years.