Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom reported on Wednesday that Israel was seeking to petition the United Nations to close UNRWA in a bid to end debate over Palestinian refugees. Meanwhile, the agency announced it had opened two new clinics in the Gaza Strip to provide medical care to more than 175,000 people.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has provided aid, jobs, advocacy and healthcare to the more than 5 million Palestinian refugees worldwide since its establishment in 1949. The initiative to close UNRWA is headed by Israeli Minister of Knesset Einat Wilf, the party currently headed by Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
"This agency is unnecessary," Wilf told Israel Hayom. "Other refugees around the world are not afforded refugee status for generations. I support UN assistance to Palestinians in terms of education and health care, but not through this agency that disrupts the peace process."
The UN rules consider any Palestinian forced from his or her home in 1948 is a refugee, in addition to his or her offspring. Israel is the only nation in the world that disputes the definition, saying there are only 250,000 Palestinian refugees.
Meanwhile, UNRWA announced on Wednesday that it had opened two new health centers in the Gaza Strip, in the refugee camps of Jabaliya and Nuseirat. According to the UNRWA press release, both centers were funded to the tune of $2 million by the government of Japan, serving over 175,000 people.
UNRWA Health Director Dr. Akihiro Scita said, “I am delighted that amid all the difficulties we are facing in Gaza, UNRWA can announce the opening of these two centers that provided vital services to some of the most disadvantaged people in the Middle East. I give great thank to the people and government of Japan for their generosity.”
Japan is the ninth largest donor to UNRWA, with annual donations of over $20 million. There are about 1.1 million refugees in Gaza's eight camps, or three-quarters of the population.