UNRWA seeking more funds from Gulf, Europe after US cuts

Commissioner General for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) Pierre Krahenbuhl (1st-L) gives a press conference with the head of UN information center Radhia Achouri (2nd-L) at the United Nations Information center in Cairo on September 10, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 11 September 2018
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UNRWA seeking more funds from Gulf, Europe after US cuts

CAIRO: A UN agency that supports Palestinian refugees will target additional funding from Gulf states and European partners as it seeks to make up a $200 million shortfall caused by a US aid cutoff, the agency’s head said on Monday.
“We face an unprecedented financial crisis,” said Pierre Krahenbuhl, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in Cairo to try to drum up support at an Arab League meeting on Tuesday.
“We have decided that it is essential for us to close the historic shortfall that we faced of $446 million, by reaching out to many other countries and among them member states of the League of Arab States.”
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have already announced $50 million each for UNRWA, said Krahenbuhl, adding that Japan, India and China had also provided new or increased support.
UNRWA provides services to about 5 million Palestinian refugees across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank and Gaza. Most are descendants of some 700,000 Palestinians who were driven out of their homes or fled fighting in the 1948 war that led to Israel’s creation.
The growing refugee count was cited by Washington, UNRWA’s biggest donor, in its decision late last month to withhold funding.
The US decision threatened UNRWA’s provision of health care and emergency aid as well as education for 526,000 Palestinian refugee children — though schools did recently open for the new year.
“We are very determined to keep the schools open because you can’t go through an education process by opening one day and closing three weeks later,” said Krahenbuhl.
“I can’t imagine going back to our students and saying we’ve failed.”
Krahenbuhl said he was hoping that other Gulf states would offer further contributions and back efforts to find new donors in other regions. The agency will seek to mobilize European partners in the coming weeks as well as campaigning for private donations.
“We still need approximately $200 million to close this year’s shortfall ... We will knock on every door to make sure we get the necessary support.”
The UN General Assembly had given UNRWA its mandate and approved the definition of Palestinian refugees, he noted.
“It is not for an individual member state to define a change. This is a question that rests with the General Assembly and with nobody else.”


Iran starts Gulf war games, to test submarine-launched missiles

Updated 22 February 2019
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Iran starts Gulf war games, to test submarine-launched missiles

  • More than 100 vessels taking part in the three-day war games in an area stretching from the Strait of Hormuz to the Indian Ocean
  • Iran has expanded its missile program, particularly its ballistic missiles

DUBAI: Iran on Friday began large-scale naval drills at the mouth of the Gulf, which will feature its first submarine cruise missile launches, state media reported, at a time of rising tensions with the United States.
More than 100 vessels were taking part in the three-day war games in a vast area stretching from the Strait of Hormuz to the Indian Ocean, the state news agency IRNA reported.
“The exercise will cover confronting a range of threats, testing weapons, and evaluating the readiness of equipment and personnel,” navy commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi, said in remarks carried by state television.
“Submarine missile launches will be carried out ... in addition to helicopter and drone launches from the deck of the Sahand destroyer,” Khanzadi said.
State media said Iran would be testing its new domestically built Fateh (Conqueror) submarine which is armed with cruise missiles and was launched last week.
Iranian officials in the past have threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil shipping route, in retaliation for any hostile US action, including attempts to halt Iranian oil exports through sanctions.
US President Donald Trump pulled out of an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program last May and reimposed sanctions on Tehran. He said the deal was flawed because it did not include curbs on Iran’s development of ballistic missiles or its support for proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.
Iran has expanded its missile program, particularly its ballistic missiles.
Iran launched its domestically made destroyer Sahand in December, which official say has radar-evading stealth properties.
The USS John C. Stennis entered the Gulf in December, ending a long absence of US aircraft carriers in the strategic waterway.
Iran displayed a new cruise surface-to-surface missile with a range of 1,300 kilometers earlier this month during celebrations marking the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Western experts say Iran often exaggerates its weapons capabilities, although there are concerns about its long-range ballistic missiles.