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UNRWA staff in Gaza hold protest rally over planned cuts

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
People hold a protest rally against a decision by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to reduce its services in the Gaza Strip, August 17, 2015.

Hundreds of employees with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) have held a rally in the Gaza Strip against a decision by the UN body to cut its services in the besieged territory.

The demonstrators held banners reading “Education is a red line” and “I deserve to live in dignity” on Monday.

On July 25, UNRWA said in a statement that it was planning to decrease its aid to Palestinian refugees, including those living in Gaza, due to a lack of funding from its international donors.

Earlier this month, the agency announced that its financial resources would dry up by the end of August, when schooling for half a million Palestinian students in some 700 UNRWA-run schools across the Middle East is due to begin.

‘Catastrophic’ consequences

During the Monday protest, Suhail Hindi, the chairman of the union of Arab employees at the UNRWA in Gaza, slammed the body’s decision to reduce its services to Palestinian refugees as “unacceptable.”

Hindi said a possible delay in opening the schools would have a “catastrophic impact,” stressing that education and healthcare should remain the agency’s top priorities.

Over the past weeks, Palestinian refugees have been holding rallies to protest against the planned cutbacks.

A UN agency established in 1949, UNRWA provides health and education services to a population of some five million registered Palestinian refugees in camps throughout the Middle East.

The Gaza Strip has been under a crippling Israeli siege since 2007. The blockade, which has cut off the territory from the outside world, has led to economic and humanitarian crises in the densely-populated enclave.

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