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Hostile parties seek to close UNRWA, says senior official

The Director of UNRWA Operations in the Gaza Strip said on Monday that hostile parties seek to close the agency by spreading “misleading material and news,” Anadolu has reported. Matthias Schmale referred to these parties as states and capitals or Zionist organisations, without naming any of them.

Schmale said that the parties depend on “spreading misleading materials and news about UNRWA or circulating existing facts out of their true context.”

The UN official pointed out by way of example the “incitement” against UNRWA over claiming that it incites violence inside the schools it runs for Palestinian refugee children.

“Since March 2020, teachers have posted materials on social media to facilitate distance teaching,” he pointed out. “A very few of these pages did not follow UN principles. They [the anti-UNRWA parties] have used these materials to incite against us.”

According to Anadolu, the Israeli Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education claimed in January that UNRWA “calls for violence” in its schools. Schmale denied this. “Hostile behaviour is not being taught at [UNRWA} schools,” he insisted.

At the same time, he expressed his respect for the Palestinian textbooks of the schools in refugee host countries, and rejected any deletion of the Palestinian Authority’s syllabus.

UNRWA has been facing a massive budget deficit ever since former US President Donald Trump stopped America’s donation and support for the agency in August 2018. Schmale noted that only $200 million has been raised for Gaza so far. Nevertheless, 90 per cent of the UNRWA programmes in the territory had been carried out.

The number of refugees is increasing, the senior official added. He called for donor countries to increase their support in order to maintain the level of essential services provided for the refugees.

On Thursday, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said that the agency needs $1.356 billion this year alone to fund its services in the occupied Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. The Biden administration in Washington has hinted that it will resume US donations, but Schmale said that it was not clear when and how this will happen.