UN agency launches global appeal for Palestinian aid

A Palestinian man loads a horse-pulled cart with food donations outside a center of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNWRA, in Gaza City, on January 17, 2018. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees faces its worst funding crisis ever after the United States froze tens of millions of dollars in contributions, its spokesman said today. (AFP / MOHAMMED ABED)
Updated 18 January 2018
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UN agency launches global appeal for Palestinian aid

AMMAN: The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, launched a global fundraising campaign on Wednesday after the US slashed its financial contribution by more than half.
“Let us draw our strength from the Palestine refugees who teach us every day that giving up is not an option. UNRWA will not give up either,” the agency’s Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl said.
“At stake is the dignity and human security of millions of Palestine refugees, in need of emergency food assistance and other support in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
The US is the agency’s largest single donor. The State Department said on Tuesday it would reduce its contribution from $125 million to $60 million until UNRWA carried out unspecified reforms.
The decision targets the most vulnerable segment of the Palestinian people and will deprive refugees of the right to education, health, shelter and a dignified life, Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi said. “It is creating conditions that will generate further instability throughout the region.”
The cut in aid is meant to pressure the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, but Palestinian refugees in Jordan will bear the brunt. UNRWA has let go 100 day workers out of 280 in Jordan, said Tariq Khoury, MP for the city of Zarqa, which has a large Palestinian refugee population.
Cuts in UNRWA’s health and education services in Jordan would make an already difficult economic situation worse, he told Arab News. “If UNRWA withdraws its services the Jordanian government will be obliged to step in and provide them.”
There are 120,000 students in UNRWA schools in Jordan and Palestinian refugees make five million visits to UNRWA medical clinics.
Aaron David Miller, a former US Middle East peace envoy, said: “UNRWA has major problems. But why does it make sense to cut health and educational services to ordinary Palestinians who have nothing to do with the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas or the still non-existent peace process? Stunning incompetence.”
Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand and former UN aid administrator, said: “It’s a sad day for Palestinian refugees. People’s needs should not be sacrificed over political differences.”
UNRWA was established by the UN General Assembly in 1949 after hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes in the 1948 war that followed the creation of Israel. It helps five million registered Palestinian refugees.


Russia says kills 88,000 Syria rebels

Updated 13 min 31 sec ago
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Russia says kills 88,000 Syria rebels

  • Russia launched strikes in support of President Bashar Assad’s regime in September 2015
  • Russian air forces have carried out more than 40,000 bombing missions, hitting about 120,000 targets

MOSCOW: Russia’s defense minister said Saturday that almost 88,000 rebels had been killed in Syria in the three years since Moscow’s intervention to back government forces.
“Over the course of the operation, a total of more than 87,500 rebels have been eliminated, 1,411 settlements have been liberated and more than 95 percent of Syria’s territory,” Shoigu was quoted as saying at a forum in Singapore in a ministry statement.
“Most of the rebels have been liquidated,” Shoigu said.
Britain-based war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says close to 365,000 people have been killed during the seven-year civil war.
Russia launched strikes in support of President Bashar Assad’s regime in September 2015.
Russian air forces have carried out more than 40,000 bombing missions, hitting about 120,000 targets of “terrorist” infrastructure, Shoigu said.
The defense minister said that “Syrian armed forces currently control territory where more than 90 percent of the population lives.”