Jerusalem Mayor: Israel Will Take Over UNRWA Services. UNRWA Vows to Keep Them Running

The mayor, Nir Barkat, said Israel will most importantly take over schooling for 1,800 students currently studying in UNRWA schools in East Jerusalem

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File photo: Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat speaks during a news conference in Jerusalem, February 23, 2015.
File photo: Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat speaks during a news conference in Jerusalem, February 23, 2015. Credit: RONEN ZVULUN/Reuters

Israeli authorities will take over UNRWA's services, most notably schooling for 1,800 students, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said Thursday. Barkat did not give an exact timeline.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees is vowing to continue operations in Jerusalem despite Israeli plans to remove it.

>> Israel promises 'revolution' for East Jerusalem schools. Palestinians say it's 'brainwashing'

The Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, said Saturday that education, health care and other services to Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem are "important work."

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.

>> Schools for Palestinian refugees to open on time despite U.S. cuts, UNRWA saysUNRWA chief says money will run out in October ■ 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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