Over the weekend, Israeli television reported that the US administration is planning to escalate its attacks on Palestinian refugees by not only explicitly rejecting their right of return but also by unilaterally redefining who constitutes a refugee so as to slash their numbers to just half a million.
Since then, US diplomat Nikki Haley has affirmed the US would only support the Palestinian refugees’ relief agency UNRWA if the organisation were to “change the number of refugees to an accurate account”.
It is now being reported that the Trump administration has decided to cancel all US funding to UNRWA. Read more
As with the decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, US President Donald Trump surely had his electoral base in mind when deciding to slash funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which looks after Palestinian refugees.
Trump’s decision, however, can not be divorced from a long-standing Israeli animus towards the agency, whose current difficulties have been broadly welcomed by Israeli politicians – including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israeli officials and pro-Israel groups make two main arguments in their attacks on UNRWA: Palestinian refugees are “fake” and the UN agency “perpetuates” the conflict. Read more
Early on Tuesday morning, Israeli forces – three battalions worth, according to press reports – invaded the al-Fawwar refugee camp, located south of Hebron.
An Israeli military spokesperson said the raid was an “operational activity to uncover weaponry”. Palestinian residents described it as an unprecedented attack on a beleaguered refugee camp. Read more
Leading NGOs have heavily criticised attempts to link the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip with its demilitarisation, ahead of a debate about the issue in Westminster today.
Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) will this afternoon urge “disarmament for development”, as the Israel lobby group launches a new campaign focusing on the Gaza Strip and Hamas.
In their supporters’ briefing, LFI claims: “Reconstruction, lifting the ‘blockade’ of Gaza by Israel and Egypt and demilitarisation are intimately linked: the first two are dependent on the last.” Read more
At the end of 2013 came a shocking update from Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus – at least 15 Palestinians had died of hunger since September. The grim news was shared by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), whose spokesperson Chris Gunness told French news agency AFP that the conditions in the besieged camp were deteriorating. UNRWA, he said, “have been unable to enter the area to deliver desperately needed relief supplies” since September.
Meanwhile, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, anger at job cuts and budgetary problems has manifested itself in the form of industrial action, hunger strikes and marches by refugee camp popular committees. Read more