UNRWA Says Israeli Inspectors Tried to Raid Its East Jerusalem Clinic

Palestinian sources call the inspection a very unusual step because the clinic doesn't work under an Israeli Health Ministry permit ■ Incident comes after Jerusalem mayor announces Israel will take over UNRWA's services

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A man walks next to a sign at the entrance to the UNRWA West Bank Field Office complex in East Jerusalem, January 3, 2018.
A man walks next to a sign at the entrance to the UNRWA West Bank Field Office complex in East Jerusalem, January 3, 2018.Credit: Ammar Awad / REUTERS
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

Health Ministry inspectors came to a United Nations Relief Works Agency clinic in Jerusalem’s Old City on Monday and asked to see the clinic’s stock of medications.

The clinic described the incident as a raid and said employees refused to cooperate with the inspectors, asking them to address UNRWA’s head offices. Palestinian sources said the inspection is a very unusual step because the clinic does not work under a Health Ministry permit. 

“The raid today comes a few days after [Jerusalem Mayor Nir] Barkat’s statement that he would close UNRWA institutions in East Jerusalem as part of a step that seems coordinated with and on the instructions of the politicians,” Aviv Tatarsky, a researcher for the NGO Ir Amim, said.

>> Analysis: Israel closing UNRWA in East Jerusalem: Assuming responsibility or a political move?

“This is a body that provides essential services such as clinics and schools to a population that the Jerusalem municipality and the rest of the Israeli authorities have been neglecting for 50 years now. Instead of waging war against an imaginary enemy, policy makers should work to provide East Jerusalemites with the basic services they deserve,” he said.

Tatarsky was referring to a plan unveiled last week by Barkat to close down UNRWA activities in Jerusalem, including the clinics that serve East Jerusalemites, and expropriate the buildings in which the clinics operate.  

UNRWA has operated in east Jerusalem, which Palestinians demand as a future capital, since Israel occupied it in 1967. The Trump administration, however, cut $300 million in annual aid to the agency, demanding reforms.

>> Analysis: Defunding UNRWA is an example of Trump’s ‘peace’ plan

The agency was established following the 1948 Mideast war that led to Israel's creation. Today, it aids 5 million Palestinians, mostly refugee descendants. Israel says this perpetuates conflict with the Palestinians.

The Jerusalem municipality has promised a "reolution" for East Jerusalem’s schools via a five-year plan that starts this year

Two years after it captured East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel tried to impose the Israeli curriculum on the schools. The Palestinians launched a months-long school strike in protest, until the government gave in and let them continue studying the Jordanian curriculum. Later, after the Palestinian Authority was established, the PA curriculum replaced the Jordanian one.

Ever since 1967, the East Jerusalem school system has suffered deep neglect. The state itself admitted to the High Court of Justice that there’s a shortage of 2,000 classrooms, so residential apartments serve as improvised classrooms for thousands of students.

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