Palestinian resistance movement Hamas has criticized the United Nations (UN) body for Palestinian refugees for cutting back on the services the agency provides for Palestinian refugees.
In a press release on Tuesday, the resistance movement said that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is “giving up its role” in providing services to Palestinians.
UNRWA said in a statement on Saturday that it was decreasing its aid to Palestinian refugees, including those living in the besieged Gaza Strip, due to a lack of funding from its international donors. The people of Gaza are also grappling with repercussions of Israel’s devastating offensive last summer, which left some 2,200 people dead and demolished buildings and structures.
The UN agency, which usually provides health and educational services to Palestinian refugees in 58 refugee camps throughout the Middle East, said it may have to delay the start of the academic year in some 700 schools for half a million students across the region.
Hamas said that the cutbacks in the services provided by UNRWA is worsening “the already aggravated situations in all areas where Palestinian refugees exist, which could result in things spinning out of control.”
On Thursday, Nickolay Mladenov, the UN special coordinator for the so-called Middle East peace process, warned the UN Security Council that UNRWA has a shortfall of over $100 million that could lead to the closure of hundreds of schools.
The Palestinian resistance movement, however, said that “such measures are nothing but a political game designed to damage the education sector under the guise of financial and technical difficulties.”
Hamas also called on the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) to address the situation and “assume its responsibilities towards Palestinian refugees.”
Out of the 1.8 million people living in Gaza, where Hamas is based, 1.3 million are refugees, according to reports. Most of the refugees live in miserable conditions in 8 refugee camps across the coastal enclave.
The Gaza Strip has been under a crippling Israeli siege since 2007. The blockade, which has cut off the territory from the outside world, has led to an economic and humanitarian crisis in the densely-populated enclave.
According to UNRWA, as of March 21, there were as many as 526,744 registered Palestinian refugees in nine camps in Syria. Over 1,258,550 registered Palestinian refugees are living in eight camps in the besieged Gaza Strip; and there are more than 762,280 registered Palestinian refugees in 19 camps in the occupied West Bank.
As many as 449,957 registered Palestinian refugees are residing in 12 camps in Lebanon and a total of 2,097,338 registered Palestinian refugees are also living in ten camps in Jordan.