UN Palestinian agency to axe 250 jobs after US funding cuts

Palestinian employees of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA take part in a protest against job cuts announced by the agency, at its headquarters in Gaza City July 25, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 25 July 2018
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UN Palestinian agency to axe 250 jobs after US funding cuts

  • 154 employees in the occupied West Bank and 113 in the Gaza Strip will be let go
  • The job cuts were the first since the US announced it would cut down aid to the agency

GAZA CITY: The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees announced Wednesday it was cutting more than 250 jobs in the Palestinian territories after the United States held back hundreds of millions in aid.
In total, 154 employees in the occupied West Bank and 113 in the Gaza Strip will be let go, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said in a statement.
More than 500 other full-time staff will be offered part-time contracts, the statement added.
The job cuts were the first since the US announced it would only provide the agency with $60 million this year, down from $360 million the previous year.
Gunness’s statement said the US cut represented an “existential threat” to UNRWA, which had been trying to raise the money from other donors.
Amal Al-Batsh, deputy head of UNRWA’s staff union, condemned the cuts.
“The decisions are unfair and will adversely affect employees and their families,” she told AFP.
Hundreds of people rallied outside UNRWA’s headquarters in Gaza City to protest against the decision to axe jobs, as the union called for a sit-in.
One man tried to set himself on fire but fellow protesters rushed to help him and put out the flames, an AFP journalist at the scene said.
“The letters sent today are not letters of dismissal. It is a death certificate for us and our families,” said UNRWA employee Anwar Hamad.
The UNRWA staff union also called for a general strike by employees to be held on Thursday in Gaza.
The agency provides services to more than three million Palestinian refugees across the Middle East and employs more than 20,000 people, the vast majority Palestinians.
Gunness’s said UNRWA was seeking to “protect core services, including education, health and relief,” and to ensure the schools they run in the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Jordan and elsewhere open on time after the summer holidays.
“The decision of the US to cut $300 million in funding to UNRWA this year has been described by our commissioner general as an existential threat to UNRWA,” he said.
“As we continue to pursue every avenue of support to overcome a severe financial crisis, UNRWA, its dedicated staff and the refugees have only one option: to face up to this situation together and preserve the most important work we do.”


In January, US President Donald Trump linked the cutting of Palestinian aid to the decision by president Mahmud Abbas to refuse to talk with his administration.
The Palestinian leadership froze ties with the White House after it recognized the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and accuses Trump’s administration of blatant bias in favor of Israel.
“We pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect,” Trump tweeted on January 2, shortly before the funding freeze was announced.
“With the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?“
UNRWA was set up after the 1948 war surrounding the creation of Israel, during which more than 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes.
Israeli politicians have long criticized the agency’s existence, arguing it perpetuates the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
UNRWA leadership and Palestinian officials say its presence is necessary until a permanent solution can be found for the refugees.


Daesh defeated, ‘caliphate’ eliminated: US-backed SDF

Updated 8 min 22 sec ago
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Daesh defeated, ‘caliphate’ eliminated: US-backed SDF

  • The victory marks the end of the militants’ self-declared “caliphate”
  • The SDF has been battling to capture Baghouz at the Iraqi border for weeks

BEIRUT: Daesh has been defeated at its final shred of territory of Baghouz in Syria, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Saturday, announcing the end of its self-declared “caliphate” that once spanned a third of Iraq and Syria.
The SDF declared the “total elimination of (the) so-called caliphate,” Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF media office, wrote on Twitter.
“Baghouz has been liberated. The military victory against Daesh has been accomplished,” he wrote.
The SDF has been battling to capture Baghouz at the Iraqi border for weeks.
“We renew our pledge to continue the war and to pursue their remnants until their complete elimination,” he wrote.
Though the defeat of Daesh at Baghouz ends the group’s grip over the extremist quasi-state straddling Syria and Iraq that it declared in 2014, it remains a threat.
Some of its fighters still hold out in Syria’s remote central desert and in Iraqi cities they have slipped into the shadows, staging sudden shootings or kidnappings and awaiting a chance to rise again.
The US believes the group’s leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, is in Iraq. He stood at the pulpit of the great medieval mosque in Mosul in 2014 to declare himself caliph, sovereign over all Muslims.