Popular committees in Gaza camps call for protests against UNRWA

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Popular committees in Palestinian refugee camps in the Gaza Strip on Sunday urged Gazans to take part in sit-ins in front of the UNRWA headquarters to protest a reduction in the refugee agency’s services in Gaza.They said in a statement that the reductions come at a “dangerous time,” alleging that “forces of evil and aggression” are trying to push Palestinian refugees from the camps, as in Yarmouk camp in Syria, and also to pressure them to immigrate to other countries.The popular committees are official entities affiliated with the PLO in Palestinian refugee camp across the occupied Palestinian territories and abroad.The statement said that UNRWA had reduced its annual employment rate, which was in turn affecting education rates as less Palestinians saw the value of a university education.They also criticized UNRWA for stopping monthly payments to Gazans whose houses were demolished during the Israeli military offensive last summer.UNWRA, which is the largest service provider for refugees in the Gaza Strip, has been struggling in recent months to secure donor funding.The agency announced in February that a lack of funding had forced them to stop a cash assistance program for tens of thousands of Palestinians to make repairs to damaged and destroyed homes.In a report on Thursday, the UN agency said that only $216 million had been pledged for its emergency shelter program, leaving “a current shortfall of $504 million.”The report said: “Due to the lack of funding, to date, 47,979 families have not received the first tranche for repair works of their shelter and 6,880 have not received the second tranche to continue the repair works.”It added that almost a year after the beginning of last summer’s conflict, “not a single totally destroyed home has been rebuilt in Gaza.”The report said that “the Gaza Strip only exists through external funding; 80 per cent of the population are dependent on aid,” adding: “People in Gaza don’t want aid, they want dignity and freedom.”The call for protests by the popular committees came after Hamas organized a march in Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on Friday to protest UNRWA’s reduction in services.It also comes at a time when Gaza is facing growing internal unrest, with a strong of explosions set off in recent months, some by violent Salafist groups seeking to challenge Hamas’ rule over the coastal enclave.On Saturday, a Salafist group claimed responsibility for a rocket attack which brought retaliatory Israeli airstrikes against Hamas.

(Source / 07.06.2015)

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