Turkey increasing help to Palestine, says official

Turkey increasing help to Palestine, says official

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey increasing help to Palestine, says official

The Gaza Strip’s Hamas premier, Ismail Haniyeh (L), and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, salute together the lawmakers of the Justice and Development Party in Parliament in Ankara on Jan 3. Filippo Grandi (inset R), the commissioner of the UNRWA for Palestine Refugees, talked to HDN reporter Sevil Küçükkoşum. AP photo

Turkey is donating more than ever before to a U.N. agency that focuses on Palestinian refugees, according to the body’s director.

“For the last four or five years, Turkey has consistently increased [its financial contributions],” Filippo Grandi, the commissioner of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, told the Hürriyet Daily News on April 26. “This year, [the total] Turkish contribution is estimated at about 7 million to 8 million dollars.”

Grandi said his organization provided education, health, social services, infrastructure and housing and that it was for the welfare of almost 5 million Palestinian refugees in the Middle East. The organization is supported by governments. In the past, Turkey was a relatively small donor to UNRWA, but it has increased its contribution from just 250,000 dollars a few years ago to 1.25 million dollars this year, Grandi said.

‘Gaza blockade illegal’

Grandi said the organization had experienced many difficulties due to the Israeli embargo while trying to provide humanitarian assistance to Palestinians. “Every time we build something [housing, schools], we have to negotiate. It’s a very complicated procedure and the permission is given very slowly by the Israeli government. It has to be accelerated,” he said. “Gaza is not a humanitarian crisis, it is much bigger than that. Electricity [runs just] a few hours per day. The water is dirty, the hospital quality is terrible. People still depend on food handouts,” the commissioner said.

“The most important thing, in order for the Gazan economy to start again and for people to get out of poverty, is the need to resume exports. The natural markets of the Gaza are the West Bank and Israel, but this is forbidden now,” he said. Until the embargo, many Gazans used to work in Israel and export to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan, Grandi said. “Israelis say this is a security issue. Rockets that are shot from Gaza into Israel should be condemned, as it’s a violation of international law. But I don’t think that the blockade is the right response to protect the Israeli people. The blockade is illegal,” he said. k HDN