Palestinian refugees in West Bank fear UNRWA closure

JERUSALEM: In refugee camps in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Palestinians relying on the UN agency UNRWA for schooling and healthcare fear key services will stop as donors have paused funding over accusations staff members took part in Hamas’ Oct 7 attack.

Most of the focus on the fate of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees has been on its emergency operations in war-devastated Gaza where it is critical to an aid effort for the enclave’s 2.3 million inhabitants.

But the agency is also a lifeline for Palestinian refugees across the Middle East, including in the West Bank where it serves more than 870,000 people, running 96 schools and 43 primary healthcare facilities.

“If they cut off aid from UNRWA, there will be no help of any kind for residents, especially in refugee camps because they rely on UNRWA,” said Mohammad al-Masri, a resident of Dheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem.

UNRWA announced last month that it had dismissed staff after Israel presented it with allegations that 12 of its 13,000 employees in Gaza had taken part in the Oct 7 assault by Hamas fighters who stormed border fences and attacked Israeli towns.

The militant group killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and dragged more than 250 back into Gaza as hostages, according to Israeli tallies. Israel’s aerial and ground war in the Hamas-run enclave has killed more than 28,000 people there, health authorities there say.

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