Palestinians rioted at the UNRWA compound in Gaza on Wednesday demanding financial aid, but UN officials said countries who promised assistance have not fulfilled their pledges, leaving the UN without sufficient funds.
A large group of Palestinian protesters stormed a UN compound in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday morning after the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), citing lack of funds, suspended payments to Gaza families to rebuild their homes damaged during Operation Protective Edge.
Protesters chanted slogans against Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Robert Serry, UN envoy to the Middle East peace process, calling UNRWA’s decision “political,” Palestinian News Agency Ma’an reports.
“You took the Palestinian people to a corner of slow death, and today the world is practicing collective punishment against the Palestinian people,” a protest leader told Ma’an.
Haaretz reports that Serry had expressed “outrage” at Hamas’s failure to protect his office’s compound despite knowing of the protest beforehand.
“The special coordinator is outraged by the assault on the compound in Gaza this morning,” Serry’s office said in a statement. “During a pre-announced demonstration, of which Hamas was well aware, a number of, protesters climbed the perimeter wall and entered the compound, causing damage to United Nations premises and property. Due to precautionary measures taken, United Nations personnel working in the compound were fortunately unharmed.”
Furthermore, according to the statement, “Pending a full transfer of security responsibilities to the legitimate Palestinian Authority, we continue to hold Hamas fully responsible for the security and safety of all United Nations personnel and operations in Gaza.”
Hamas officials, in turn, were infuriated by UNRWA’s decision to suspend the payments, saying it amounted to an “abandonment of Gaza’s destitute, desperate population,” Haaretz reports.
Arab Countries Default on Pledges
In the announcement on Tuesday that it was suspending payments to Gaza families meant to support their rehabilitation, UNRWA said that although $720 million was pledged by donor countries, only $135 was received.
Reuters reported in December that months had passed since donors pledged $5.4 billion to help rebuild Gaza, but barely two percent of the money was transferred.
“We have received funding and pledges of approximately $100 million for shelter and repair,” Robert Turner, director of operations for the UN’s Relief and Works Agency in Gaza (UNRWA), told Reuters. “That money will be largely finished in January 2015,” he warned. “We have a shortfall [for shelter and homes] of $620 million, and we are going to run out right in the hardest part of winter.” His bleak forecast has materialized.
Reuters quotes other officials who say that Arab countries have been among the worst at following through with their commitments. “The Arab countries haven’t paid anything until now,” Mufeed al-Hasayna, the Palestinian housing minister, said this month. “The Europeans, just a few million; maybe something from the Swedes.”
Reuters points out that it is difficult to transfer money to Gaza since Hamas, an Islamist terror organization, which is notoriously corrupt, rules the Strip. The money was supposed to go to the Western-backed PA, which had planned to resume responsibility in Gaza and administer the money. That has not happened.
By: United with Israel Staff
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