Al-Ahed News – Palestinians have warned of a plot to “dismantle” the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees [UNRWA] after the body announced it will delegate its humanitarian services for more than 5 million Palestinian refugees living in dozens of refugee camps to other organizations to overcome its severe financial crisis.
The UNRWA is “not just about the delivery of services,” Muhammed Shehada from the Swiss-based Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said. “As long as UNRWA is there, it’s a reminder that the international community has a responsibility to solve the issue of Palestinian refugees,” he told AFP news agency.
Shehada further argued that any “de-prioritization” of the agency would be seen as diminishing “the Palestinian cause in general.”
Last month, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said in a letter to the Palestinian refugees that the agency could ask other UN bodies to help with service delivery.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said the plan would “violate” the UN resolutions that set up UNRWA, while the Palestine Liberation Organization said refugees would be outraged.
Mohammad al-Madhoun, a senior official with the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, described the proposal as “an attempt to dismantle UNRWA as a prelude to ending its work.”
Samer Sinijlawi, the chairman of the al-Quds Development Fund and a member of Fatah resistance movement, stated that Lazzarini’s proposal was in part an attempt to test “the Palestinian pulse” ahead of a 2023 UN General Assembly vote on renewing UNRWA’s mandate.
But it also gave “a green light” to countries that have been trying “to manipulate this mandate and gradually end the work of UNRWA,” Sinijlawi told AFP.
UNRWA was established in 1949, a year after the creation of the ‘Israeli’ occupation regime. The UN body is a frontline provider of healthcare, education and other services to some 5.7 million Palestinian refugees spread across the occupied Palestinian territories, as well as in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.
The agency, with more than 30,000 employees and a budget of some $1.6 billion this year, has long been a target of the occupation regime’s criticism.