UN says US aid for Palestinian refugees will not cover the shortfall

The agency had entered 2021 with liabilities of $75 million from the last financial year, and its annual deficit was expected to reach $200 million in the current year. (AFP/File)
The agency had entered 2021 with liabilities of $75 million from the last financial year, and its annual deficit was expected to reach $200 million in the current year. (AFP/File)
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Updated 29 January 2021

UN says US aid for Palestinian refugees will not cover the shortfall

UN says US aid for Palestinian refugees  will not cover the shortfall

AMMAN: The UN agency for Palestinian refugees expressed hope on Thursday that the US will resume its funding, but said it still would not be enough to cover a shortfall.
Under former President Donald Trump, the US halted its support for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA.
On Tuesday, Washington’s interim UN envoy Richard Mills said President Joe Biden intends to “restore US assistance programs that support economic development and humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people,” without mentioning UNRWA.
“We welcome the Biden administration’s decision to restore assistance to Palestinians and look forward to continuing conversation with them about resumption of aid to UNRWA,” said the UN agency’s spokeswoman, Tamara Alrifai.
Alrifai said the “2021 financial year looks very difficult.”
“While the overall budget will remain at $806 million, same as 2020, the income forecast in the best estimates will lead to an expected shortfall equivalent to three months of operations.
“We therefore expect a cashflow crisis as of March this year. More broadly, the expected deficit would be untenable and could lead to a financial collapse of the agency,” Alrifai said.
“Our financial forecast takes into consideration the expected re-engagement of the US administration, so we predict a bit more income than 2020 but this slightly improved income will not cover the huge liabilities that UNRWA already has.”
The agency had entered 2021 with liabilities of $75 million from the last financial year, and its annual deficit was expected to reach $200 million in the current year, she added.
Before it withdrew its support for UNRWA, the US was the largest contributor to the UN agency to the tune of $365 million, or nearly 30 percent of its annual budget.
In November, UNRWA commissioner general Philippe Lazzarini said the agency faced a $70 million funding shortfall that had jeopardized its ability to pay its staff full salaries in November and December.
UNRWA, whose 28,000 employees are mostly refugees, provides services such as education and health care to more than five million Palestinians in camps in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.
The Palestinian leadership earlier welcomed the new US administration’s intention to reopen the offices of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Washington.
“We welcome the contents of the speech of the US administration’s representative to the (UN) Security Council,” said Jibril Rajoub, a senior official in the ruling Fatah party.
“The opening of the East Jerusalem consulate, the reopening of the PLO office in Washington, and the new US administration’s commitment to the two-state solution are welcome positive indicators,” he said.


Rescuers pull 394 migrants from dangerously overcrowded boat off Tunisia

Rescuers pull 394 migrants from dangerously overcrowded boat off Tunisia
Updated 01 August 2021

Rescuers pull 394 migrants from dangerously overcrowded boat off Tunisia

Rescuers pull 394 migrants from dangerously overcrowded boat off Tunisia
  • It was not clear if there were any deaths or injuries among the migrants
  • Migrant boat departures have increased in recent months as weather conditions have improved

ABOARD SEA-WATCH 3, Mediterranean: Two humanitarian rescue ships pulled 394 migrants from a dangerously overcrowded wooden boat in the Mediterranean overnight on Sunday in an operation lasting about six hours, a Reuters witness said.

The German and French NGO ships Sea-Watch 3 and Ocean Viking rescued the migrants in Tunisian waters 68 km (42 miles) from the North African coast, near oil facilities and other ships.

Sea-Watch 3, which assumed command of the operation, took 141 of the survivors while Ocean Viking took the rest. The yacht Nadir, from the German NGO ResQ Ship, later gave support.

It was not clear if there were any deaths or injuries among the migrants who were in the wooden boat, which was crammed with migrants on deck and inside the hull.

The craft was taking in water and its engine was not working, the Reuters witness said.

Migrant boat departures from Libya and Tunisia to Italy and other parts of Europe have increased in recent months as weather conditions have improved.

According to the UN-affiliated International Organization for Migration, more than 1,100 people fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa and the Middle East have perished this year in the Mediterranean.

Many of the migrants in this latest rescue were seen jumping off the boat and trying to swim to Sea-Watch 3, the Reuters witness said.

The migrants were mainly men from Morocco, Bangladesh, Egypt and Syria.


Haniyeh re-elected as chief of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas

Haniyeh re-elected as chief of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas
Updated 01 August 2021

Haniyeh re-elected as chief of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas

Haniyeh re-elected as chief of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas

GAZA: Ismail Haniyeh has been re-elected as chief of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which controls Gaza, two Palestinian officials told Reuters on Sunday.
Haniyeh has led Hamas since 2017.


Majority of Turkey wildfires under control, official says

Majority of Turkey wildfires under control, official says
Updated 28 min 59 sec ago

Majority of Turkey wildfires under control, official says

Majority of Turkey wildfires under control, official says
  • Five fires were continuing in the tourist destinations of Antalya and Mugla, while 107 fires were ‘under control’
  • A heat wave across southern Europe, fed by hot air from Africa, has led to wildfires across the Mediterranean

ISTANBUL: More than 100 wildfires have been brought under control in Turkey, according to officials Sunday.
The Minister of Forestry and Agriculture, Bekir Pakdemirli, tweeted that five fires were continuing in the tourist destinations of Antalya and Mugla, while 107 fires were “under control.”
The fires in Antalya were continuing in Manavgat and Gundogmus districts. In Mugla, they continued in the tourist destination of Marmaris, as well as Koycegiz and Milas.
Police water cannons, usually used to control riots, assisted helicopters and fire trucks in Mugla to fight a fire. Blazes were still visible in footage taken early Sunday.

Panic-struck tourists were evacuated Saturday from some hotels in Mugla’s popular district of Bodrum as a fire rolled down the hill toward the seashore. Pakdemirli said the fires in Bodrum have been controlled.
Pakdemirli’s list showed fires began in 32 provinces from Wednesday onward. Six people have died.
While Turkish authorities are investigating whether the fires may have started as an act of “sabotage” by outlawed Kurdish militants, experts mostly point to the climate crisis, as seen by the drastic increases in temperatures along with accidents caused by people.
A heat wave across southern Europe, fed by hot air from Africa, has led to wildfires across the Mediterranean, including in Italy and Greece.
Temperatures in Greece and nearby countries in southeast Europe are expected to climb to 42 degrees Celsius (more than 107 Fahrenheit) Monday in many cities and towns.


Outgoing Iran president says government not always truthful

Outgoing Iran president says government not always truthful
Updated 01 August 2021

Outgoing Iran president says government not always truthful

Outgoing Iran president says government not always truthful
  • President Hassan Rouhani insisted he and his officials did their best
  • Rouhani blamed many of Iran’s current problems on Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal

DUBAI: Iran’s outgoing president on Sunday acknowledged his nation at times “did not tell part of the truth” to its people during his eight-year tenure, as he prepares to leave office with his signature nuclear deal with world powers in tatters and tensions high with the West.

President Hassan Rouhani’s comments, aired on state television, come as officials in his government have appeared rudderless in recent months amid a series of crises ranging from the coronavirus pandemic to parching droughts fueling public protests.

After appearing just days earlier to be lectured by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei about their failures in the nuclear negotiations, Rouhani’s remarks appeared aimed at acknowledging the problems his government faced in its waning hours. President-elect Ebrahim Raisi, a protégé of Khamenei, will be inaugurated Thursday.

“What we told people was not contrary to reality, but we did not tell part of the truth to people,” Rouhani said at his last Cabinet meeting as president. “Because I did not find it useful and I was afraid it would harm national unity.”

He did not elaborate on what he meant by his remarks. However, during his tenure, Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard mistakenly shot down a commercial airliner and killed 176 people onboard in January 2020, which the government refused for days to acknowledge until Western nations went public with their suspicions.

Rouhani, a relative moderate within Iran’s theocracy, insisted he and his officials did their best.

“If we have a defect, we apologize to the people and ask them for forgiveness and mercy,” Rouhani said.

He pointed to the country’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which saw Iran agree to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. However, that deal now sits in tatters after then-President

Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord in May 2018.

Rouhani blamed many of Iran’s current problems on Trump’s decision, which saw the value of the Islamic Republic’s rial currency crash. The president said that while Iran had plans to upgrade its armed forces after the expiration of a UN arms embargo in October 2020, it couldn’t due to its financial woes.

“We did not have the money to buy due to sanctions and not selling oil, but the contract is completely ready,” he said.


Syria’s Assad asks PM Hussein Arnous to form new cabinet

Syria’s Assad asks PM Hussein Arnous to form new cabinet
Updated 01 August 2021

Syria’s Assad asks PM Hussein Arnous to form new cabinet

Syria’s Assad asks PM Hussein Arnous to form new cabinet

AMMAN: Syrian President Bashar al Assad has again tasked Prime Minister Hussein Arnous with forming a new government after he became a caretaker premier following polls last year that extended Assad's presidency.
Assad designated Arnous as prime minister last August to replace Imad Khamis as Syria grappled with a major economic crisis and a plunging currency.