UN Palestinian agency faces 'existential crisis'

Palestinian children hold bread patties during a protest against aid cuts, outside the United Nations’ offices in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip in this file photo.(AFP)
Updated 09 February 2018
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UN Palestinian agency faces 'existential crisis'

UNITED NATIONS:One month after the Trump administration announced a drastic funding cut to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, only one country, Kuwait, has stepped forward to offer additional funding, senior UNRWA officials said Friday.
The United States announced in January that it would give $60 million to UNRWA - a fraction of the more than $350 million annual contribution that it has provided to the agency's budget.
Kuwait stepped in to contribute $900,000 and about 15 donor countries including Sweden and Japan decided to speed up their donations to keep UNRWA afloat, said Peter Mulrean, UNRWA's representative in New York.
But Mulrean told reporters at UN headquarters that the agency was facing an "existential financial crisis" as it seeks to fill the gap from the US funding cut.
The United States is the biggest single donor to UNRWA which provides schools and health clinics to 5.3 million refugees in the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley last month said the United States would not provide aid to the Palestinians until they agree "to come back to the negotiation table" and reach a peace deal with Israel.
"The US has not yet explained to us the rationale behind its decision on the $60 million," Mulrean said, adding that Washington had not presented any concerns about reforms.
In an interview to Voice of America, Haley said UNRWA needed to be reformed, because they consider "any Palestinian as a refugee" and "what they're teaching in schools is not necessarily the right way to have things run."
UNRWA has been repeatedly accused of promoting anti-Israel sentiment in schools, a charge it has flatly rejected.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will attend a ministerial-level donors' conference for UNRWA to be held next month in Geneva to fill the gap in funding, but it remains unclear if the United States will attend.
UNRWA's director for the West Bank, Scott Andersen, said all of the agency's services remain up and running for the time being, but that the decision had left many Palestinians anxious.
"People are frightened and concerned about what this means for them, their families and their future," he said.


Israeli forces kill Palestinian suspected over West Bank shooting

Sunday’s shooting north of Jerusalem was the most serious attack in the West Bank since October 7. (AP)
Updated 51 min 17 sec ago
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Israeli forces kill Palestinian suspected over West Bank shooting

  • The statement did not say if Barghouti was suspected of being the gunman or an accomplice

JERUSALEM: Israeli security forces on Wednesday shot dead a Palestinian suspected in the shooting of seven Israelis including a pregnant woman whose baby later died.
The Shin Bet security service said in a statement that a suspect named as Salah Omar Barghouti, 29, who tried to evade capture during a raid on a West Bank village was shot and killed.
The statement did not say if Barghouti was suspected of being the gunman or an accomplice. It said an unspecified number of other suspects were arrested.
The Shin Bet announcement came hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that those who carried out Sunday’s drive-by shooting near a Jewish settlement in the Israeli-occupied West bank would be found and brought to justice.
He spoke shortly after a Jerusalem hospital announced the death of the baby boy, delivered by emergency caesarean section after his mother was shot. She was 30-weeks pregnant.
“We lost a few hours ago a newborn baby, four days old,” Netanyahu said in an address to foreign media.
“We will find the killers, we haven’t stopped searching. We will find them and bring them to justice,” he said.
The newborn was buried late Wednesday on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives, opposite the walled Old City.
US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt said in a Twitter message that the death was “absolutely heart-breaking.”
“My thoughts & prayers are with the family of the baby who died today as a result of the despicable terror attack on Sunday,” he wrote. “This is an attack Hamas praised as ‘heroic’.”
“The world must strongly condemn this terror and not remain silent,” Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, said in a statement.
The Hamas movement, which runs the Gaza Strip, saluted the shooting and in a statement said it proved “resistance” was still alive in the West Bank.
Following the attack the 21-year-old mother was reported as stable, but the Shaare Zedek hospital said Monday that her baby had taken a turn for the worse.
The child died “despite the medical efforts of the premature baby unit to save him,” the hospital said on Wednesday.
Palestinian attacks against Israelis occur sporadically in the West Bank.
Sunday’s shooting north of Jerusalem was the most serious attack in the West Bank since October 7, when Palestinian Ashraf Naalwa shot two Israelis dead in an industrial zone for a nearby settlement.