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United States ends funding for 'flawed' UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees

United States ends funding for 'flawed' UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees

The Trump administration is expected to announce Friday that it is permanently slashing funds to the United Nations' refugee agency, in a move that security officials worry could spark Palestinian unrest but that the administration says is part of a wider US strategy.

The State Department announced Friday that the U.S. "will no longer commit further funding to this irredeemably flawed operation".

Pierre Krähenbühl, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, said this week that the agency's 711 schools in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, were opening on time for their 526,000 students despite its current "unprecedented" $217 million deficit.

Israel and the United States have accused the almost 70-year-old agency of maintaining the idea that many Palestinians are refugees with a right to return to the homes from which they fled or were expelled during the 1948 war that accompanied Israel's creation, an idea they both oppose.

In January, the Trump administration released $60m (£45m) in funds but withheld a further $65m (£50m) it had been due to provide.

In Islamist Hamas-controlled Gaza, thousands of Palestinian massed near the border fence as part of weekly protests launched on March 30 to demand rights to lands lost in the 1948 war of Israel's foundation.

He said "neither the United States nor anybody else will be able to dissolve" UNRWA.

Earlier this week, UNRWA warned that if Washington went through with its funding cut it would likely result in greater instability in the region. However, a State Department spokesperson told FP that "US policy regarding UNRWA has been under frequent evaluation and internal discussion".

UNRWA responded by stating that its "programs have a proven track record in creating one of the most successful human development processes ... in the Middle East".




CNN reported critics charged the move limits the options for the 5.3 million Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley has advocated for cutting funding to the UNRWA, saying on Tuesday that Palestinians "continue to bash America".

The US is stopping its funding for a United Nations organisation that helps Palestinian refugees, calling it an "irredeemably flawed operation".

Palestinian officials have also condemned the move.

Earlier on Friday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Germany would increase its contributions to UNRWA because the funding crisis was fueling uncertainty.

A spokesman for President Abbas told Reuters the decision was in "defiance of United Nations resolutions", and would not change the fact that the U.S. "no longer has a role in the region" and "is not a part of the solution".

The Palestinian leadership has angered the White House by boycotting its peace efforts since President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moved the embassy there in a reversal of decades of US policy.

"An immediate and capricious cut off of UNRWA funding ... risks collapsing the Palestinian Authority, empowering Hamas, and shifting the responsibility of health, education, and ultimately security services to the Israelis", Harden said.

"Israel supports the U.S. move", an official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said on condition of anonymity.

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