Hezbollah calls on supporters to donate as sanctions pressure bites

In this Nov. 12, 2010 file photo, Hezbollah fighters parade during the inauguration of a new cemetery for their fighters who died in fighting against Israel, in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. (AP)
Updated 10 March 2019
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Hezbollah calls on supporters to donate as sanctions pressure bites

  • Hezbollah was founded in 1982 by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Its influence has expanded at home in Lebanon and in the region

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Hezbollah on Friday called on its supporters to donate money as it comes under increasing pressure from Western sanctions intended to isolate it financially.
The US deems all parts of Hezbollah a terrorist organization and has been steadily increasing financial sanctions against the Iran-backed movement.
“I announce today that the resistance is in need of its (popular base),” Hezbollah’s Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said, adding that donations were needed to support the group’s activities.
Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese government. It is also heavily armed and has sent militants to the conflict in neighboring Syria.
Britain last month said it would list all elements of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization for destabilizing the Middle East, breaking with the rest of the EU which proscribes only its military wing.
In a televised speech, Nasrallah said other nations may follow Britain’s example.
“The sanctions and the terror lists are a form of war ... we should deal with them as if they are a war,” he said.
He called on Hezbollah supporters to remain steadfast in the face of these pressures and said the group’s enemies would be “disappointed.”
“Their actions will not be able to make us poor, hungry or isolated. Those that support us will continue in their support — be they countries, people or our people and the people of resistance in Lebanon,” Nasrallah said.
Hezbollah was founded in 1982 by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Its influence has expanded at home in Lebanon and in the region.
The group controls three of 30 ministries in the Lebanese government led by Western-backed Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, the largest number ever. It does not acknowledge having separate political and military wings.
Hezbollah and political allies that view its arsenal as an asset to Lebanon won more than 70 of Parliament’s 128 seats in an election last year, a major blow to Lebanese parties that oppose its possession of weapons like the Christian Lebanese Forces, which enjoys close ties to US-allied Gulf states.


UN agency to donors: Back Palestine efforts anew, keep funding at 2018 levels

The UN Relief and Works Agency provides food assistance to 1 million people in Gaza every three months, which is half of the area’s population. (AFP)
Updated 57 min 54 sec ago
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UN agency to donors: Back Palestine efforts anew, keep funding at 2018 levels

  • ‘Exceptional’ contributions enabled the UN Relief and Works Agency to fund its entire 2018 budget of $1.2 billion
  • ‘Countries that supported us last year I would say were extremely proud to contribute to the solution’

UNITED NATIONS: The head of the UN agency that helps 5.3 million Palestinian refugees on Monday urged donors who filled a $446 million hole in its budget last year after the Trump administration drastically cut the US contribution to be equally generous this year.
“Last year we had an extraordinary crisis and an out of the ordinary response,” Pierre Krahenbuhl said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Our humble request to all the donors is: Please keep your funding levels at the same level as 2018.”
He said he has been thanking donors for their “exceptional” contributions that enabled the UN Relief and Works Agency to fund its entire 2018 budget of $1.2 billion.
Krahenbuhl said the agency, known as UNRWA, also adopted a $1.2 billion budget for 2019, and this year it is getting nothing from the United States. Last year, the Trump administration gave $60 million, a dramatic reduction from the $360 million it provided in 2017, when the United States was the agency’s largest donor.
US President Donald Trump said in January 2018 that the Palestinians must return to peace talks to receive US aid money — a comment that raised alarm from leaders of 21 international humanitarian groups, who protested that the administration’s link between aid and political objectives was “dangerous.”
Krahenbuhl said the campaign that UNRWA launched immediately after the US slashed its contribution succeeded as a result of “very important donations,” starting with the European Union, which became the agency’s biggest donor. He said 40 countries and institutions increased funding to UNRWA, including Germany, United Kingdom, Sweden, Japan, Canada and Australia. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait each gave $50 million, he said.
“Countries that supported us last year I would say were extremely proud to contribute to the solution,” Krahenbuhl said.
Last year, he said, the number of multi-year funding agreements with donors rose to 19.
So UNRWA right now is in “a somewhat better position” than it was last year, with a shortfall of just over $200 million, Krahenbuhl said.
So far this year, the agency has received $245 million and is expecting $100 million more, he said, which means it should be financially OK until about May.
“But from then on we’ll start to ... reach some crisis points,” Krahenbuhl said.
He said UNRWA is thinking about holding some events in the next two or three months “to collectively mobilize the donor community.” In June, he said, there will be a pledging conference at which the UN and donors will take stock of the agency’s financial situation.
Krahenbuhl said he is committed to making up for the $60 million that UNRWA is losing from the United States this year through internal cost saving measures to reduce the agency’s expenditures.
“That’s going to hurt, but that’s where we feel our financial responsibility, so that we preserve the trust that was generated by the level of donors,” he said, noting that UNRWA last year saved $92 million.
Krahenbuhl said donors recognize the agency does important work. He pointed to the 280,000 boys and girls in UNRWA schools in Gaza and the food assistance the agency provides to 1 million people there every three months. “That’s half of Gaza’s population,” he said.
The UNRWA chief also said that continuing the agency’s services to Palestinian refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Gaza and elsewhere in the Mideast “is in everybody’s interest” and important for stability in the region.
“If you take Gaza right now ... it’s continuously at the razor’s edge,” Krahenbuhl said, stressing that any shift in humanitarian assistance or conditions that people live in “can trigger the need for justification, or the excuse ... to go back to war.”
Noting his own experience in the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, which controls Gaza, Krahenbuhl said, “this is absolutely devastating and needs to be avoided.”