A child walks in front of a mural painting depicting the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on her way to a school run by United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in Balata refugee camp, east of Nablus on August 29, 2018.
(photo credit: JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)
As thousands of Palestinian youths went back to school on Wednesday, a senior IDF officer told The Jerusalem Post that the cutting of funds to UNRWA schools is a major concern.
“The aid being stopped is a big blow to Palestinians,” a senior officer in the Samaria region of the West Bank told the Post on Wednesday. “We are concerned that if the schools aren’t funded, the youth will go out and carry out attacks.”
According to the senior officer, while there have been no successful attacks in the northern West Bank over the past few months, there remains “a big potential” for deadly attacks.
Despite the significantly fewer vehicular attacks, as well as stabbings and shooting attacks against IDF forces and Israeli civilians in the West Bank, they remain a major threat. According to the military, shooting or vehicular ramming attacks are more likely to be carried out by young men, while children are behind many of the cases of stone throwing.
While the officer was concerned about the consequences that may come from the cutting of US funds, he was also hopeful that it could bring a change to the situation on the ground.
“Maybe something good will come out of it [the cutting of funds], and the Palestinians will learn to support themselves and not rely on others for everything,” he said, adding that other countries – such as Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia – are also providing millions of dollars to UNRWA.
Gaza tensions rise following UN funding cut to Palestinian refugee program UNRWA, July 30, 2018 (Reuters)
Pointing to a UNRWA school in the Balata refugee camp in Nablus, the senior officer told the Post that while teachers are still being paid, projects like new infrastructure have been stopped.
Pierre Krähenbühl, commissioner-general of the UNRWA, was quoted by Reuters as saying that the agency received $328 million in additional contributions since the beginning of the year.
“We’re very determined to keep these schools open,” he said on Wednesday.
Earlier this year, the United States
gave only $60m. in aid to UNRWA out of a promised $355m. for the year; and according to a report in Foreign Policy, the Trump administration has decided to end funding altogether.
“We will be a donor if [UNRWA] reforms what it does.... If they actually change the number of refugees to an accurate account, we will look back at partnering with them,” Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the United Nations, said Wednesday during remarks at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington.
UNRWA says it provides services to about five million Palestinian refugees who are descendants of the 700,000 Palestinians who fled in 1948 during the War of Independence.
“The Americans are very smart,” the senior officer told the Post, adding that the Trump administration “is putting pressure on all the right places.”
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