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.


Israeli forces kill Palestinian suspected of deadly attack in West Bank

Updated 20 March 2019
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Israeli forces kill Palestinian suspected of deadly attack in West Bank

  • The assailant was killed after he opened fire at Israeli forces who had come to arrest him, the Shin Bet said
  • The Palestinian health ministry said two more Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli soldiers near Nablus

JERUSALEM: Israeli forces on Tuesday killed a Palestinian suspected of carrying out a deadly stabbing and shooting attack in the occupied West Bank two days earlier, the Israeli Shin Bet security service said.
The assailant was killed after he opened fire at Israeli forces who had come to arrest him, the Shin Bet said. The Palestinian health ministry confirmed a person had been killed in the clash, but provided no further details.
In what appeared to be a separate incident, the Palestinian health ministry said two more Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli soldiers near the West Bank city of Nablus. An Israeli army spokeswoman said the report was being looked into.
On Sunday, a suspected Palestinian assailant fatally stabbed a soldier at an intersection on a busy West Bank highway and opened fire at the scene using the conscript’s rifle, killing an Israeli rabbi and wounding a second soldier.
Palestinians, many of them people without links to armed groups, carried out a wave of attacks in the West Bank in late 2015 and 2016 but the frequency of such incidents has since decreased.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war. Palestinians seek to establish a state there and in the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014.