unrwa

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This is a tragic situation, and we can appreciate the frustration all round. The people of Gaza are frustrated because they are desperately poor. The managers of the UN relief work are frustrated because they fear for the safety of their staff when the frustration of their clients boils over into violence.  The authorities in Gaza are frustrated because they know their people badly need the assistance that the UN relief agency gives them.

Evidently what is required here for everybody concerned is a concrete political solution. Even so, this doesn’t make the short-term welfare needs any less serious.

Father Dave

Protest in the Gaza Strip

Protest in the Gaza Strip (photo ICAI)

source: www.voanews.com…

Palestinian Tensions Simmer Ahead of Kerry Visit

GAZA — Islamist group Hamas on Friday urged a United Nations agency to resume its operations in the Gaza Strip, accusing the world body of over-reacting by shutting down after its headquarters was stormed by demonstrators.

The main U.N. humanitarian agency for Palestinians closed all its offices in Gaza on Thursday after protesters stormed its headquarters to demand it reverse a decision to cut an annual $40 handout to the poorest Gazans.

The dispute comes against a broader backdrop of growing Palestinian unrest in both Gaza and the occupied West Bank, with no end in sight to the decades-old Middle East conflict.

Secretary of State John Kerry’s Trip

  • April 6:  Istanbul, Turkey for talks with senior officials
  • April 7-9:  Jerusalem and Ramallah for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders
  • April 10-11: London for the G8 Foreign Ministers Meeting
  • April 12: Seoul, South Korea
  • April 13: Beijing, China
  • April 14: Tokyo, Japan

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is due to return to Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy on Sunday, with meetings scheduled in both Ramallah and Jerusalem from April 7-9, just two weeks after President Barack Obama’s first visit to the region.

Like Obama before him, Kerry is not expected to bring any new initiative to revive peace talks, which broke down in 2010.

The past week saw violent clashes between youths and Israeli security forces in the West Bank, which raised fears that a new uprising, or Intifada, might be brewing. There were reports of sporadic confrontations on Friday, but not on the same scale as earlier in the week.

In another sign of the tensions, rockets were fired out of Gaza for three days running this week, while Israeli warplanes carried out their first strike on the territory since November.

The storming of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) compound in Gaza on Thursday was part of a dispute that has been brewing for weeks and was not tied to diplomatic events, but it laid bare the frustration brewing amongst Palestinians.

‘Unacceptable’

UNRWA provides assistance in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank to Palestinian refugees and their descendants — now put at some five million spread across myriad camps.

The agency has said it will not resume work in Gaza, including food distribution to 800,000 Palestinians — nearly half the enclave’s population — unless it receives assurances from Hamas over the safety of its staff.

“People are demonstrating because they’re frustrated and the situation in Gaza just seems to be getting worse,” said Robert Turner, the director of UNRWA operations in Gaza.

“We respect everyone’s right to peaceful protest, but what happened yesterday was unacceptable,” he told Reuters, saying initial reports suggested up to 200 demonstrators, some carrying iron rods, had forced their way into the UNRWA compound.

Hamas called the closure of UNRWA offices “unjustified.”

“When UNRWA’s administration called Palestinian security they arrived, restored calm and ended the state of chaos,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. “Therefore, we urge UNRWA to rethink its decision.”

Turner said UNRWA faced a $68 million shortfall in 2013 and took the decision to cut the $40 annual handout to 106,000 Gaza refugees to save some $5.5 million. To soften the blow, the agency was offering job schemes to help the poorest families.

News that food centers had been shut down shocked Gaza.

“If UNRWA closes down the food distribution centers, it would lead to a disaster,” said Fathi Al-Seidi, 30, who lives in a refugee camp. He added that locals were dependent on the UNRWA aid and cash from Western-backed authorities in the West Bank.

“Without this, life will be equal to zero,” he said.

U.N. officials said UNRWA appeared to be bearing the brunt of disillusionment in Gaza that followed a short-lived spurt of optimism last November when a ceasefire deal between Hamas and Israel raised hopes of an easing of restrictions on the enclave.

Israel, supported by Egypt, imposes a partial trade blockade on Gaza, saying it is needed to prevent arms reaching Hamas, which does not recognize Israel and has not renounced violence.

Since the November truce, which ended eight days of fighting, the restrictions have barely changed while Egypt has launched a crackdown on illegal smuggling tunnels into Gaza.

Underscoring Hamas’s difficulties, the group’s leader Khaled Meshaal said on Thursday it faced a “financial problem,” suggesting Arab allies were not providing sufficient aid.

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Father Roy writes:   From Israel’s perspective, the UN has a “tradition” of anti-Semitism.   Peace, Roy 

UN accuses Israel of blocking Gaza reconstruction

Thursday, 08 November 2012

The United Nations Fourth Committee has accused the Israeli authorities of obstructing efforts to reconstruct the Gaza Strip, which was devastated during the Israeli war in 2008/2009. Life in Gaza, claims the UN, will not be viable if the siege is not lifted.

“The mission of reconstructing the Gaza Strip has become more difficult for UNRWA because of Israel’s delayed approval of projects,” said the Committee, which is charged with looking into projects for “decolonisation”. “The delays cost UNRWA $5m in addition expenses, which has to be taken from money donated to help refugees.”

Reduced financial support for UNRWA from donor countries has, warned the Committee, led to a decrease in the level of services offered to Palestinian refugees: “This is dangerous morally and politically.”

The Commissioner General of UNRWA, Filippo Grandi, said: “The agency is still facing two main challenges in affording basic humanitarian services for the Palestinian refugees: widespread conflicts in the Middle East and the scarcity of financial support.”

Mr Grandi was quoted by UN Radio: “In 2020, the population of the Gaza Strip is expected to have risen by 500,000 people and they will need education and work.” He stressed the need to lift the siege on Gaza and kick-start the economy “to provide viable conditions for life”.

Background to the Israel and Palestine conflict