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  • 07:49 - 28 July 2018

UNRWA cuts 250 Palestinian jobs as World Bank, Saudi Arabia announce aid packages

Gaza,(DRAH.ps)-- The World Bank has allocated $90 million in aid for the Palestinians, an increase from $55 million in 2017, much of which “will be used for job creation in #Gaza,” according to a statement posted by UN Middle East envoy Nikolay Mladenov on Twitter Wednesday.

The United Nations “continues its efforts to reduce tensions in Gaza, [and] address urgent #humanitarian needs and support a return of the [Palestinian Authority] PA,” Mladenov added.

This declaration of support from the World Bank and Mladenov coincides with an announcement from UNRWA (the UN agency for Palestinian refugees) that it has cut more than 250 jobs in the Palestinian territories after the United States held back hundreds of millions in aid.

In total, 154 employees in the West Bank and 113 in the Gaza Strip will be let go, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said in a statement.

More than 500 other full-time staff will be offered part-time contracts, the statement added.

Gazans protest UNRWA job cuts

Demonstrations against the cuts are expected to be held in Gaza on Wednesday.

Dozens of UNRWA employees protested inside the agency’s Gaza headquarters Tuesday, demanding the agency reverse its decision to terminate hundreds of employee contracts, according to WAFA news agency.

The demonstrators reportedly broke into the UNRWA headquarters and stopped Operations Director Matthias Schmale from exiting his office.

The announcement comes months after the United States cut around $300 million from its annual support to UNRWA, a decision Gunness’ statement called an "existential threat" to the agency.

The job cuts were the first since the US announced it would only provide UNRWA with $60 million down from $360 million the previous year.

The agency, which provides services to more than three million Palestinian refugees across the Middle East, was seeking to "protect core services, including education, health and relief," Gunness said.

UNRWA was set up after the 1948 war surrounding the creation of Israel, which saw more than 700,000 Palestinians flee or be expelled from their homes.

Israeli politicians have long criticised the agency's existence, arguing it perpetuates the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

UNRWA leadership and Palestinian officials say its presence is necessary until a permanent solution can be found for the refugees.

The US froze its aid to the Palestinian Authority in accordance with the Taylor Force Act, which was passed by congress three months ago with the aim to force the PA to terminate its “pay-for-slay” policies of paying stipends to convicted terrorists in Israeli jails and to the families of dead terrorists.

The act orders that US assistance to the West Bank and Gaza “that directly benefits the PA” be suspended unless the Secretary of State certifies that the Palestinian Authority has met four conditions: terminating these payments to terrorists, revoking laws authorizing this compensation, taking “credible steps” to end Palestinian terrorism, and “publicly condemning” and investigating such acts of violence.

The Taylor Force Act was passed as part of an omnibus $1.3 trillion spending bill on 23 March 2018. It was named for the US army veteran who was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in Jaffa in March 2016, in an attack that injured eleven people.

In January, US President Donald Trump linked the cutting of Palestinian aid to the decision by president Mahmoud Abbas to refuse to talk with his administration.

The Palestinian leadership froze ties with the White House after it recognized the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and accuses Trump's administration of blatant bias in favor of Israel.

The World Bank aid package and parallel UN agency job cuts come only a day after the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia offered to support the PA budget with $80 million in aid, according to the Middle East Monitor.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly expressed his thanks to Saudi Arabia for the provision of $80 million and affirmed the strength of the relationship between the “brotherly” Palestinian and Saudi peoples.

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