UNRWA concerned over Barkat plans

UN agency for “Palestinian refugees” expresses concern after Jerusalem Mayor outlined plan to remove it from the city.

Elad Benari, Canada ,

Nir Barkat
Nir Barkat
Kobi Richter/TPS

UNRWA, the UN agency for “Palestinian refugees”, on Friday expressed concern after Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat outlined a plan to remove it from the city.

In a statement quoted by AFP, UNRWA said it was "determined to continue to carrying out" its services in east Jerusalem and criticized Barkat's plan.

"Such messaging challenges the core principles of impartial and independent humanitarian action and does not reflect the robust and structured dialogue and interaction that UNRWA and the State of Israel have traditionally maintained," the agency said.

Barkat’s plan would remove UNRWA from eastern Jerusalem and replace the services it provides with municipal services.

In his announcement, Barkat said the plan would “put an end to the lie of the 'Palestinian refugee problem' and the attempts at creating a false sovereignty within a sovereignty.”

Barkat said that under his plan all UNRWA schools in eastern Jerusalem will be closed by the end of the current school year. Health centers will likewise be shut down.

The municipality will also lobby Israeli political leaders and press them to exercise their "authority to remove UNRWA (headquarters) from Israel's sovereign territory" in Jerusalem.

"In parallel, the city will work to expropriate the area for public purposes," he said.

His announcement follows the recent US decision to end all its funding for UNRWA.

The announcement came several months after Washington decided to cut some of its funding to UNRWA, citing a need to undertake a fundamental re-examination of the organization, both in the way it operates and the way it is funded.

Created in 1949, UNRWA supplies aid to more than three million of the five million registered Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and territories assigned to the Palestinian Authority.

However, it is also notorious for its anti-Israel activities. During the 2014 counterterrorism Operation Protective Edge, Hamas rockets were discovered inside a school building run by UNRWA.

Likewise, a booby-trapped UNRWA clinic was detonated, killing three IDF soldiers. Aside from the massive amounts of explosives hidden in the walls of the clinic, it was revealed that it stood on top of dozens of terror tunnels, showing how UNRWA is closely embedded with Hamas.

In a more recent incident, the director of UNRWA operations in Gaza expressed his support for the anti-Israel marches along the Israel-Gaza border and pledged that the organization’s medical centers will provide care for “Palestinian refugees” who might sustain injuries during them.

Since the US announced it would stop its funding to UNRWA, the agency has received pledges of $118 million from donor countries in a bid to help it overcome a crisis triggered by the US cut.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)