Brussels/New York: The European Union says it’s offering an extra $46 million to the UN Palestinian refugee agency to help educate children and provide health care in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The EU move announced Friday is intended to help fill a $217 million budget short-fall left after the United States effectively ended its $350 million contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees.
The deficit led to the elimination of 113 jobs and 584 staff positions being converted to part-time. UNWRA’s Gaza employees went on strike Monday to protest pay cuts and dismissals.
The agency serves millions of Palestinians who fled or were forced from homes in the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, and their descendants.
The announcement came as Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas assailed the Trump administration the UN General Assembly on Thursday over pro-Israel decisions that he said “completely contradict” the United States’ role as a mediator.
Abbas exhorted Trump to rescind the decisions, which moved the US Embassy in Israel to occupied Jerusalem, defunded Palestinian aid, challenged the status of Palestinian refugees and countenanced Israeli colony expansion.
“[Occupied] Jerusalem is not for sale, and the Palestinian people’s rights are not up for bargaining,” Abbas said in his speech to a mostly friendly audience at the UN General Assembly.
He also assailed an Israeli law narrowly passed in July that enshrined occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, made Hebrew the only official language and asserted that the right of national self-determination was “unique to the Jewish people.”
The new law, Abbas said, “will inevitably lead to the creation of one racist state, an apartheid state, and nullifies the two-state solution”.
Meanwhile, Hamas called on Abbas to lift what it described as his “sanctions” on the coastal territory.
Friday’s call followed Abbas’s threats to “give up responsibility” for Gaza if Hamas doesn’t respond positively to Egyptian efforts to broker a reconciliation between rival Palestinian factions.
Abbas slashed funding to Gaza and cut salaries of PNA employees there to pressure Hamas into handing over the territory, making it increasingly difficult for Hamas to govern.