NEW YORK – Donor countries raised $120 million for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees and their descendants after meeting on Friday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session, amid warnings by the agency that its funding will dry up after the United States announced last month that it was halting aid.
The Ad Hoc Liaison Committee's Friday meeting focused on the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip's electricity and water infrastructures and came after EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the EU will add 40 million euros to its current financing of the agency, which is known as UNWRA.
On Twitter, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi thanked Kuwait, the EU, Germany, Ireland and France for their financial pledges in the meeting.
Israel's Foreign Ministry praised the development in a tweet, saying that in the meeting, Israel presented projects "that will prevent further deterioration" of the humanitarian situation in Gaza, and that "Israel supports aid activities despite the Hamas' hostile actions against Israel."
At the AHLC meeting, U.S. President Donald Trump's Mideast peace envoy, Jason Greenblatt, asserted that "we cannot continue to provide aid year after year to areas whose leadership thwarts our efforts to improve the economic well-being of Palestinians," seemingly contradicting Israel's attempts at fundraising.
UNRWA has said that schools and health centers are at risk if it is unable to plug a $185 million funding gap needed to keep operating until the end of the year.
UNRWA provides services to about 5 million Palestinian refugees across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank and Gaza. Most are descendants of some 700,000 Palestinians who were driven out of their homes or fled fighting in the 1948 war that led to Israel's creation.
The growing refugee count was cited by Washington, UNRWA's biggest donor, in its decision to withhold funding.
Negotiations surrounding the aid package were led over the past year by the UN's special Middle East envoy, Nickolay Mladenov, who stated in a report that Gaza's unemployment rate stands at 53 percent and points at American aid cuts to the budget of UNRWA as a factor that contributed to this deterioration.
Mladenov said on Saturday that we was "deeply saddened" by the reported deaths of seven Palestinians in Gaza a day earlier. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, seven Palestinians, including boys aged 12 and 14, were killed by Israeli military fire during clashes at the border fence.
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