UN, Palestinians launch humanitarian appeal after funding cuts

Palestinians take part in a protest against the US move to freeze funding for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) at the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on February 6, 2018. (File/AFP)
Updated 17 December 2018
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UN, Palestinians launch humanitarian appeal after funding cuts

  • The 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan outlined 203 projects to be carried out by 88 different groups
  • The plan prioritized 1.4 million Palestinians most in need of food, health care, shelter, water and sanitation

JERUSALEM: The United Nations and the Palestinian Authority on Monday appealed for $350 million in humanitarian relief for Palestinians next year, saying that they needed more but had to be realistic in the face of “record-low” funding.
The 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan outlined 203 projects to be carried out by 88 different groups, including UN agencies and non-governmental organizations.
The plan prioritized 1.4 million Palestinians most in need of food, health care, shelter, water and sanitation, said Jamie McGoldrick, the UN humanitarian coordinator in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem.
“Humanitarian actors are facing unprecedented challenges, including record-low funding and a rise in attacks to delegitimize humanitarian action,” he said in a joint statement issued on Monday, ahead of the appeal’s launch in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Although “much more assistance is needed,” McGoldrick said, the plan was “reflecting what we can realistically accomplish in this highly constrained context.”
Over the past year, the United States has slashed its funding to the Palestinians, including to the UN agency that provides services to 5 million Palestinian refugees.
The United States promised $365 million to the agency in 2018, but paid only a first instalment of $60 million before announcing in August that it would halt all future donations.
The move was widely seen as a means of pressuring the Palestinian leadership to enter peace negotiations with Israel.
The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem — territories that Israel captured and occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.
US-brokered peace talks between the sides collapsed in 2014 and a bid by US President Donald Trump to restart them has so far showed little progress.
Around 77 percent of the funds sought in the 2019 plan would go to Gaza, the appeal organizers said, because the densely populated coastal strip faced a “dire humanitarian situation” after years of an Israeli-led blockade, internal Palestinian political divisions and casualties from demonstrations and recurring hostilities.
“The humanitarian context in the oPt (Occupied Palestinian Territories) is still deteriorating due to the Israeli occupation violations in a time of lack of resources and declining funds because of the politicization of the humanitarian aid,” Palestinian Social Development Minister Ibrahim Al-Shaer said in the statement.


Amid security worries, gun sales thrive in Iraq’s Mosul

Updated 8 min 12 sec ago
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Amid security worries, gun sales thrive in Iraq’s Mosul

  • Gun ownership was expected to increase since Iraq altered legislation in 2018 allowing civilians to purchase pistols and semi-automatic weapons, after they had only been allowed to buy hunting guns
MOSUL, Iraq: Hunting rifles, pistols and towers of ammunition magazines: new gun shops are popping up in Iraq’s Mosul, where residents are keen to own personal firearms in the unpredictable aftermath of Daesh rule.
The Daesh group reigned over the city for three years before being ousted by Iraqi forces in mid-2017.
But with militants sleeper cells still active across the broader province, the new half-dozen licensed gun traders in Mosul are seeing impressive sales.
“We’ve got a lot of customers,” said one shop owner in his 40s, who was granted a weapon-trading license from Iraq’s interior ministry a few months ago.
All his customers have gun permits, and “many also carried membership cards in the armed forces,” he told AFP.
His most popular item? Hunting rifles, said the trader. “They make up 70 percent of all my sales,” he said proudly.
Iraq has one of the highest rates of civilian gun ownership in the world, according to the Small Arms Survey, which estimated about 20 guns per 100 Iraqi civilians last year.
Gun ownership was expected to increase since Iraq altered legislation in 2018 allowing civilians to purchase pistols and semi-automatic weapons, after they had only been allowed to buy hunting guns.
In Mosul, newly-licensed shops are the latest addition to the roughly 130 gun shops across the rest of Iraq.
They offer a wide spectrum of weaponry to Mosul’s residents, from machine guns and hunting rifles to US, Chinese or Croatian pistols.
They range from $50 to $5,000, a hefty purchase in a country where the average monthly income is $500.

“We sell to civilians, but also to members of the military,” said another gun shop owner in Mosul, who also preferred to speak anonymously.
The civilians included recreational hunters but also “businessmen and journalists” who felt they may be targeted for their profession, he said.
One of them is Abu Nizar, a Mosul resident who keeps a pistol on his belt and a Kalashnikov assault rifle in his exchange office.
“A number of money-changing offices and other traders were attacked,” the 45-year-old told AFP, so he requested a gun license to keep himself and his business safe.
But it’s not just civilians who are determined to be armed.
Hamed Hassan, a 21-year-old member of Iraq’s security forces, carries a weapon while on duty but has to turn it in when he goes home.
“The security situation is still fragile,” he told AFP while weaving his way between glass cases of rifles and ammunition stockpiles in a Mosul storefront.
“I need a weapon for my personal protection.”
Hundreds of militants are believed to be hiding in the rugged mountains and open plains around Mosul, with deadly hit-and-run attacks reported every few days against military installations or government offices.
After the US-led invasion of 2003, Mosul became a stronghold of the anti-American insurrection, with Al-Qaeda seizing control of parts of the city.
The group’s terrorist progeny Daesh overran Mosul in 2014, capturing stockpiles of arms, ammunition and tanks from Iraqi forces, much of which had originated as military aid from the US.

Across Iraq, many communities rose up to defend themselves against Daesh, sometimes using personal weapons and in other cases with direct backing from the state.
Now that fighting has died down, parts of those stockpiles are being illicitly bought and sold across the country.
“Light arms of all types are still feeding the black market,” a security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“Some were stolen, others recuperated after Daesh fled and still others were smuggled” across northern Iraq, which borders Turkey and war-ravaged Syria.
But some Mosul residents fear even the legal trade in weapons could have negative repercussions on their city, deeply scarred by years of violence.
When Daesh held Mosul, it forced teenage boys to fight and enrolled them in military training and religious classes, meting out violent punishments — including beheadings — against those who defied its rules.
“Mosul was recently recaptured — there are still clandestine terrorist cells there that could exploit” gun sales, said sociologist Ali Zeidan, who is from Mosul.
“Crime could go up if someone got their hands on weapons this way. There should be very tough restrictions,” the 35-year-old told AFP.
Amer Al-Bek, a political analyst in the city, said authorities should reconsider awarding gun sale licenses.
“The situation in Mosul is not as stable as officials would have you believe,” Bek told AFP.
“Selling such arms to civilians will have a negative effect on security now and in the future.”