Protest at UNRWA in Gaza
Protest at UNRWA in Gaza Flash 90

Senior members of Hamas have escalated their threats against UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East), following UNRWA's announcement that it will have to reduce its services due to a lack of funding.

UNRWA is the largest organization belonging to the United Nations, with an operating budget of over a billion dollars per year. It provides health care, education, and other services to Palestinians. It is also the only UN organization dedicated to a specific group of refugees, and Palestinians are the only refugees who can inherit refugee status from their parents.

The organization is currently running on a deficit of $101 million. Without the extra money, it claims that it will be forced to delay the start of the coming school year.

Hamas organized large-scale demonstrations against the possible delay throughout Gaza. Participants waved banners criticizing the organization, calling for a "right of return" and threatening a "revolution of the refugee camps and anger."

The main protest was held in front of the UNRWA offices. During the demonstration, Mushir al-Masri, a senior member of Hamas, called the decision to delay the school yea "an open war against our people and our refugees, and a preparatory step towards removing the right of return to the homes from which we were evicted during the Nakba." The Nakba, meaning "disaster," is the term many Palestinians use for the creation of Israel.

Masri warned against adhering to the "stupid" restriction and warned that he would not be able to stop the anger on the streets. He further called for Islamic national forces and to Palestinians to come out in "revolution and rage against the decisions which hurt refugees."

Another senior Hamas official, Sa'ed al-Marazi, told the crowds, "We say to everyone, especially the UN Secretary-General: give us back our stolen homeland, and the Jews should return to wherever they came from. Your land is not here."

Al-Marazi also added his own threat, saying that "all the options are open" should UNRWA reduce its services.