RAMALLAH, Thursday, October 18, 2018 (WAFA) – The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) dismissed on Thursday threats by the Israeli mayor of West Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, to close down its operations in occupied Jerusalem.
Barkat submitted to a parliamentary committee a plan to end UNRWA operations in Jerusalem and to turn over its services in health and education to his municipality.
UNRWA spokesman Sami Mshasha told WAFA that while these threats are worrying, they will not change facts on the ground since UNRWA exists based on international resolutions and binding bilateral agreements.
UNRWA was created in December 1949 by a United Nations resolution to provide services in health, education, and social relief to around 700,000 Palestinians who were forced out of their homes in Palestine when Israel was created in 1948.
Mshasha said that UNRWA is going to continue with its mandate in East Jerusalem as anywhere else it operates and will provide these services to the Palestinian refugees in occupied East Jerusalem regardless of the Israeli threats, which are not new to the agency.
UNRWA runs five schools and clinics in East Jerusalem that provide services to around 100,000 refugees in the city and surrounding areas. It also operates in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
Israel was emboldened in its moves against UNRWA by a decision by the US administration to stop funding the UN agency starting this year, creating as a result serious deficit in its budget since the US was its biggest donor with over $360 million in annual contributions.
Palestinians believe the US move, which corresponds with Israel’s efforts, is intended to dissolve the UN agency in order to end the refugee issue.