Palestinian agency protests U.S. funding cut; Trump’s special representative hits Hamas tunnels

by WorldTribune Staff, January 30, 2018

While thousands of employees of the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees marched in the Gaza Strip to protest U.S. cuts in aid to the agency, an envoy for President Donald Trump said it is Hamas that is stifling “Gaza’s chance for success.”

The Trump administration earlier this month suspended $65 million to the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) as well as a separate $45 million in food aid.

UNRWA employees protest in Gaza. / Reuters

Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Gaza City on Jan. 29 to protest the cuts, AFP reported.

“By turning out in such huge numbers and peacefully you are giving a powerful message to the world,” Matthias Schmale, UNRWA’s director in Gaza, told the crowd, according to AFP.

“You have been our biggest partner for decades, the United States, and you have helped us build one of the most effective and results-orientated public service organizations in the world,” he said. “Protect this investment – all these people that are doing something good in the lives of refugees.”

Following the U.S. cut, Belgium pledged to allocate $23 million to the UNRWA over a period of three years, AFP reported, while Great Britain said it would provide around $69.5 million to the agency.

Reports have noted that, for years, Hamas used UNRWA facilities to store rockets and weapons.

Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s Special Representative for International Negotiations, tweeted on Jan. 29 that “Hamas literally undermines Gaza’s chance for success – now building a terror tunnel under a crossing to Israel that should be a conduit toward a better economy.”

“A terror tunnel costs roughly $5.9 million to build ($ that belongs to the people of Gaza) plus roughly $30,000 a day in lost revenue when the crossing is closed as a result. Gaza needs options besides Hamas and its enablers. Time to stop pouring money into violence and hatred, and to start investing in a real future for Palestinians in Gaza.”

On Jan. 28, Greenblatt and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai visited the site of a recently discovered Hamas terror tunnel which extends from Gaza into Israel.

Greenblatt tweeted: “Hamas wastes resources on tunnels & rockets to attack Israel, instead of helping the people of Gaza by getting the lights on, the water flowing & the economy growing. Hamas spews hateful rhetoric & foments a vicious cycle of violence. Gaza deserves better!”


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