Turkey and its partners to compensate for US withdrawal from UNRWA: Turkish FM

Turkey and its partners to compensate for US withdrawal from UNRWA: Turkish FM

Turkey and its partners to compensate for US withdrawal from UNRWA: Turkish FM

Turkey, along with Germany, Japan, Sweden and EU will hold a meeting in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in late September in order to discuss the compensation of aid to Palestinian refugees after the United States canceled all funding to UNRWA, the U.N.’s cash-strapped Palestinian refugee agency.

“We are trying to close the gap. We will make efforts not to leave Palestinian refugees alone,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Sept. 18 at a four-way press conference with Turkish and Jordanian ministers of foreign affairs and trade, which aimed to boost bilateral trade opportunities.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said nearly 5 million Palestinian refugees are being effected by the U.S. decision.

On Aug. 31, Washington cut all of its funding to the UNRWA, to which the U.S. had been—by far—the largest contributor. Established in 1949, the UNRWA provides critical aid to Palestinian refugees in the blockaded Gaza Strip, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Washington recently revoked the residency visa of Husam Zomlot, head of the PLO’s general delegation to the U.S., and those of his family, while also freezing the diplomat’s bank accounts. The move came shortly after the U.S. administration announced the closure of the PLO’s Washington office, which also serves as a Palestinian embassy. The decision also comes as the U.S. administration prepares to unveil a controversial Middle East peace plan, details of which have been yet to be made public.

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee, slammed the U.S. move against the diplomat.

“As if the announcement that the U.S. would close our office in Washington D.C. was not enough, this vindictive action by the Trump administration is spiteful,” Ashrawi said in a Sept. 17 statement carried by Palestine’s official Wafa news agency.

“The U.S. has taken its attempts to pressure and blackmail the Palestinians to a new level,” she added.

“By deliberately targeting the family of Ambassador Zomlot, the U.S. administration has gone from cruel punishment to revenge against the Palestinians and their leadership—even to the point of causing hardship to their innocent children and families,” Ashrawi said.

Separately, Gaza’s Health Ministry said on Sept. 18 that 26 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli gunfire during a mass protest on the border with Israel.

Thousands gathered on Sept. 17 on the beach along the border fence separating the Gaza Strip and Israel to demonstrate against Egypt and Israel’s blockade.

The Israeli military said protesters burned tires and threw rocks and explosives at troops on the border, who responded with tear gas and live fire.

Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, has led weekly protests since March to lift the blockade that has crippled the territory’s economy.

The ministry also said early on Sept. 18 that paramedics recovered two bodies after an overnight Israeli airstrike near the perimeter fence with Israel.

The Israeli army said an aircraft targeted Palestinians who approached the fence and placed what the military said was a suspicious object.

In the occupied West Bank, a Palestinian died after being arrested during a raid, the Israeli army said on Sept. 18, with his family accusing soldiers of beating him.

The army confirmed the death of Mohammed Khatib, 24, in custody but said he had not resisted arrest.

“The army apprehended a Palestinian suspected of hostile activities in Beit Rima during the night,” an army spokeswoman told Agence France-Presse, referring to a village north of Ramallah.