US freeze aims to erase Palestinian refugee issue: Arab League

AFP , Wednesday 17 Jan 2018

Arab League
Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit (Photo: Reuters)

The Arab League chief charged Wednesday that a US decision to freeze crucial funding for the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees was aimed at wiping out the whole issue.

"This decision affects the education and health of Palestinians and aims to eradicate the question of refugees," Ahmed Aboul Gheit said at a conference in Cairo on the disputed city of Jerusalem.

On Tuesday, the United States held back $65 million that had been destined for UNRWA, two weeks after President Donald Trump threatened future payments to the agency.

Washington is the largest contributor to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA).

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness warned Wednesday that "this dramatically reduced contribution results in the most severe funding crisis in the history of the agency".

The agency was established following the war surrounding the creation of Israel in 1948, in which more than 700,000 Palestinians either fled or were forced from their homes.

UNRWA provides aid for these people and their descendants, now numbering around five million Palestinians across the Middle East.

Israel argues that UNRWA's existence perpetuates its conflict with the Palestinians, who say the agency is a vital lifeline for impoverished people.

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