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Palestinian employee of United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) hold a sign during a protest against a US decision to cut aid, in Gaza City January 29, 2018. (REUTERS/Mohammed Salem).(Photo by: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)
Gazan UNRWA employees demonstrate over withheld funds
Gazan employees of a UN agency that provides services to Palestinians refugees participated in a demonstration on Monday against the Trump administration’s decision to withhold a planned contribution to the organization.

In mid-January, the US administration announced that it would deliver only $60 million of what was expected to be a $125 million contribution.

UNRWA, one of the largest employers in the Gaza Strip, provides education, health, social welfare and other services to some one million Palestinian refugees in the small territory.

Pictures shared on social media showed some demonstrators holding up signs that read “dignity is priceless.”

“I have a family of nine and I have never felt afraid for my job like today. US aid cuts will affect the entire community,” said 59-year-old English teacher Ahmed Abu Suleiman.

Amir al-Mishal, the head of the UNRWA employees union in Gaza, told the demonstrators that UNRWA “must remain far away” from political considerations.

After the American administration announced its decision to withhold funds from UNRWA, State Department Spokesman Heather Nauert said the Trump administration would like to see UNRWA enact reforms and other nations donate more funds to the agency.

Last week, Trump criticized the Palestinians for boycotting Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to the Middle East and said the US would not deliver aid to them unless they return to the negotiating table.

“When they disrespected us a week ago by not allowing our great vice president to see them, and we give them hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and support – tremendous numbers, numbers that nobody understands – that money is on the table, and that money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace,” Trump said.

In the past couple of weeks, some countries said they made additional funding available to UNRWA. For example, on January 18, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said his country immediately disbursed $23 million of funds it had originally planned to allocate to the organization over three years.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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