UN Palestinian aid faces funding battle without US help

UNRWA provides services to about 5 million Palestinian refugees across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank and Gaza. (File/AFP)
Updated 14 March 2019
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UN Palestinian aid faces funding battle without US help

  • Washington’s decision to pull all funding further heightened tensions between the Palestinian leadership and the administration of US President Donald Trump
  • Trump at the time cited US and Israeli criticism of UNRWA’s method of counting people as refugees — which they say has created a growing number of agency beneficiaries

BRUSSELS: The UN agency that supports Palestinian refugees said on Thursday it needed $1.2 billion in funding for 2019 as it faced its first full year without US support.
Pierre Kraehenbuehl, who heads the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinians across the Middle East, said it had had to turn to countries as poor as Afghanistan last year for help after Washington withdrew its funding in August.
“There is no US funding for the first time and no indication that they are reconsidering,” he told Reuters on the margins of a donors conference for Syria.
“I can’t think of a time, even in the 1950s, 60s or 70s, when we were without the US ... they built schools, health centers and that is very important to recognize,” Kraehenbuehl said.
Washington’s decision to pull all funding further heightened tensions between the Palestinian leadership and the administration of US President Donald Trump.
Trump at the time cited US and Israeli criticism of UNRWA’s method of counting people as refugees — which they say has created a growing number of agency beneficiaries.
UNRWA provides services to about 5 million Palestinian refugees across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank and Gaza. Most are descendants of about 700,000 Palestinians who were driven out of their homes or fled fighting in the 1948 war that led to Israel’s creation.
Gulf states, Norway, Turkey, Japan and Canada stepped in with funding last year, while Afghanistan donated $1 million, Kraehenbuehl said.
He said it was unlikely that all donors would give the same amounts again this year, putting an increased burden on Europe.
Kraehenbuehl said Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and the resulting tensions with the Palestinians, had prompted the US to halt funding to UNRWA.
Kraehenbuehl warned of the risks to 280,000 school children in Gaza who depend on the UN agency.
“Where do they go if they no longer have access to UNRWA education? What happens? We know: the levels of frustration (in the region) will grow,” he said.
“It is crucial to keep children in school to have a personal horizon in the absence of a political horizon,” he said, referring to the stalled Middle East peace process.
Washington’s peace efforts are being led by Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law. Kraehenbuehl said he had not been consulted in drawing up the strategy, which has yet to be made public.


US to send 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East

Updated 18 June 2019
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US to send 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East

DUBAI/WASHINGTON: Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan announced on Monday the deployment of about 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for what he said were “defensive purposes,” citing concerns about a threat from Iran.
“The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region,” Shanahan said in a statement.
Reuters first reported plans to send US additional troops to the Middle East earlier on Monday.
Fears of a confrontation between Iran and the United States have mounted since last Thursday when two oil tankers were attacked, more than a year after President Donald Trump announced Washington was withdrawing from a 2015 nuclear deal.
Iran said on Monday it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under the deal, which a White House National Security Council spokesman said amounted to “nuclear blackmail.”