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Cash-strapped UN Palestinian Refugee Agency Holds Emergency Summit

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) will convene an emergency conference in Rome on Thursday, in a desperate push to raise funds after the United States cut-off aid to the body. President Donald Trump’s administration—which was boycotted by the Palestinian Authority following the December recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital—has so far committed only $60 million to the body this year, down from $360 million in 2017. According to UNRWA Commissioner General Pierre Krahenbuhl, the organization therefore has only enough money to keep its facilities running until May. A major funding drive, named “Dignity is Priceless,” has thus far fared poorly, generating only a $900,000 grant from Kuwait, although European countries have advanced donations to UNRWA that were scheduled for the summer. The UN egency employs some 20,000 people across the Middle East, the vast majority of them Palestinians, and operates uniquely on behalf of 5 million-odd Palestinian refugees scattered across Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Critics of UNRWA, including many in the Israeli government, contend that the organization is an “obstacle to peace,” arguing that it has perpetuated the Palestinian refugee problem by allowing such status to be passed down from generation-to-generation. While UNRWA today attends to millions of people, there are only an estimated 50,000 Palestinians still living who were displaced from their homes during the war initiated by Arab countries against Israel in the immediate aftermath of its declaration of independence in 1948.

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