"Palestinian refugees" get food hand-outs from UNRWA in Gaza
"Palestinian refugees" get food hand-outs from UNRWA in Gaza Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90

The Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD) and UNRWA, the UN agency for “Palestinian refugees”, on Sunday signed an agreement under which Qatar will contribute $20.7 million to support the access of “Palestinian refugees” to basic services in Syria, the Palestinian Authority’s official Wafa news agency reported.

With this contribution, the total support provided by QFFD to UNRWA during the year 2019 amounts to $40 million.

The agreement was signed by Khalifa bin Jassim Al-Kuwari, Director General of QFFD, and Acting UNRWA Commissioner-General Christian Saunders, the report said.

The donation will directly contribute to the Agency’s education program, namely by supporting basic education services for students and vocational and technical education and training courses for young “refugee” men and women. It will also support the provision of basic health services to 445,000 “refugees” in Syria.

“The State of Qatar and the Qatar Fund for Development are demonstrating once again their commitment to supporting Palestine refugees,” said Saunders. “This generous donation to the UNRWA operations and activities in Syria comes at a time of intense financial challenge for the Agency. We are truly grateful for this additional funding and look forward to further expanding the cooperation between UNRWA, the QFFD and the State of Qatar in 2020 and beyond.”

The announcement comes two days after the UN General Assembly voted to extend the mandate of UNRWA, the UN agency for “Palestinian refugees” until 2023. 169 countries approved the move. The US and Israel voted against and nine countries abstained.

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.

More recently, a UN ethics report alleged mismanagement and abuses of authority at the highest levels of UNRWA, including involving UNRWA's top official, Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl, who eventually resigned over the allegations.

The US, which was previously UNRWA's largest contributor, last year cut a full $300 million in funding to the agency, leaving it strapped for cash and asking other countries to help fill the gap.

Qatar contributed $50 million to UNRWA in 2018, making it one of the Agency’s top 10 donors last year, according to Wafa.