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Closing UNRWA: A move to deprive Palestinians of refugee status

During a Security Council session, the head of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees warned against the potential disbandment of the agency, stressing its critical role for millions of Palestinians.

Philippe Lazzarini highlighted that such a move would strip Palestinians of their refugee status, exacerbating the situation in Gaza and impeding post-ceasefire recovery efforts. He particularly emphasized the long-term consequences, including the hindrance of education for hundreds of thousands of distressed children, leading to despair and potential violence.

The meeting, requested by Jordan, addressed persistent attempts by Israeli authorities to force UNRWA out of Gaza and dismantle it entirely. It commenced with a moment of silence to honor the 178 UNRWA employees who lost their lives during the conflict in Gaza. The agency has faced significant challenges, with over 163 installations damaged in Gaza and only nine healthcare facilities operational.

Financial difficulties have also plagued UNRWA, exacerbated by major donor nations suspending funding over allegations against agency workers. These allegations prompted internal investigations and an independent review to ensure the agency’s adherence to neutrality principles. Lazzarini asserted that the true motive behind Israeli calls to close UNRWA is to alter the political dynamics in the region, rather than concerns about humanitarian principles.

Furthermore, Russia urged the Security Council to consider imposing sanctions on Israel for failing to implement ceasefire resolutions, citing humanitarian crises in Gaza. The United States emphasized the importance of protecting aid workers and ensuring uninterrupted support for Palestinian refugees across the region.

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