Palestinian Authority officials have sharply criticised a US decision to halt funding to the United Nations’ agency assisting Palestine refugees across the Middle East, calling it a “flagrant assault” against Palestinian people.
According to Aljazeera, Nabil Abu Rdainah, the spokesperson of Palestinian Authority, on Friday, said, “The consecutive American decisions represent a flagrant assault against the Palestinian people and a defiance of UN resolutions. Such a punishment will not succeed to change the fact that the United States no longer has a role in the region and that it is not a part of the solution.”
In Gaza, the Hamas resistance group, known to be having ties with Iran, has condemned the U.S move as a “grave escalation against the Palestinian people.”
Sami Abu Zuhri, the Hamas spokesman said, “The American decision aims to wipe out the right of return and is a grave U.S escalation against the Palestinian people. US leadership has become an enemy of our people and of our nation and we will not surrender before such unjust decisions.”
The US halted all funding to a UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees in a decision further heightening tensions between the Palestinian leadership and the US administration.
Heather Nauert, the spokeswoman of State Department said that the business model and fiscal practices of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) made it “irredeemably flawed operation. The administration has carefully reviewed the issue and determined that the US will not make additional contributions to UNRWA.”
She said that the “endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries is simply unsustainable and has been in crisis mode for many years.”
Chris Gunness, the UNRWA spokesman has also voiced agency’s “deep regret and disappointment” at the US decision, which he said was surprisingly given that a December US funding agreement had acknowledged UNRWA’s successful management.
“We reject in the strongest possible terms the criticism that UNRWA’s schools, health centers, and emergency assistance programs are ‘irredeemably flawed,” he added in a series of twitter posts.
Palestinian Chronicle, a Gaza based portal, quoted Foreign Policy news outlet, saying that the decision was made at a meeting earlier this month between Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
— Foreign Policy (@ForeignPolicy) August 30, 2018
The UNRWA, a 65 year old agency, provides services to about 5 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and West Bank and Gaza. Most are the decedents of the people who were forced out of their homes during 1948 war that led to Israel’s creation on occupied Palestinian land.
Earlier in May this year President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved US embassy to the holy city. During the decades’ long so-called peace-talks mediated by US, Palestinians were told that East Jerusalem would the capital of the State of Palestine, to be established under two-state theory.
The US move was a reversal of long time US policy and led the Palestinian leadership to boycott the Washington peace efforts being led by Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law.
Under the Donald Trump administration, the US government had previously reduced its budget to UNRWA operations in the occupied Palestinian territories from $365m to just $65m, resulting in affecting its operations.
In late June, the UN had asked member states to fill a critical funding gap caused by the US government’s funding cuts. “The situation of Palestinians is defined by great anxiety and uncertainty, first because Palestinian refugees do not see a solution to their plight on the horizon,” Pierre Krahenbuhl, UNRWA’s director told a UN conference.