UNRWA: New Israeli Restrictions Curtailing Aid to Palestinians

Agency head says new security terminals in W. Bank will bring further decline in group's ability to provide humanitarian aid.

The Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), Karen AbuZayd, on Monday warned that new restrictions Israel planned to impose on the West Bank could force the agency to curtail its humanitarian aid to the Palestinian territory.

"I fear that increased restrictions on humanitarian workers and supplies will inevitably bring about a further decline in our ability to deliver services," AbuZayd told a press conference in the Jordanian capital of Amman ahead of a meeting of host and donor countries of Palestinian refugees.

"If access, already badly curtailed, is further reduced, the scaling down of humanitarian assistance and a reduction in the quality of these services will be unavoidable," she said.

The UNRWA chief said that she had been notified by the Israeli authorities of "a new regime they intend to implement in the West Bank that would have far-reaching consequences."

"The cornerstone of this new regime is the establishment of six terminals in the West Bank through which humanitarian workers and materials will have to pass," she added.

AbuZayd told the meeting that UNRWA was facing an "exceptional crisis" in the Gaza Strip and at the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon, which she said had been devastated by the armed conflict between the Lebanese army and a radical Islamist group this summer.

In an opening address, Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdul Illah Khatib said that it was imperative for the Middle East conference, scheduled to be held at Annapolis, Maryland later this month, to discuss core issues - Jerusalem, refugees, settlements and frontiers.

"We are at a crucial cross-roads which prompts us to snatch this historical opportunity by assisting Palestinians and Israelis to conduct serious negotiations," he said.