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Israel to remove UNRWA to 'end lie of Palestinian refugee problem'

Oct. 5, 2018 10:50 A.M. (Updated: Oct. 8, 2018 11:31 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, announced on Thursday that he plans to remove the United Nations' agency for Palestinian refugees from occupied East Jerusalem, which he accused of "operating illegally and promoting incitement against Israel."

Following the announcement on Thursday, the Jerusalem Municipality confirmed that UN schools, which serve about 1,800 students enrolled, would be closed by the end of the current school year.

The municipality did not provide a specific time schedule for the closure.

Barkat said in a statement that schools, clinics and sports centers, among other services operated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in East Jerusalem, will be transferred to the Israeli authorities.

He claimed that these schools, clinics and sports centers were "illegal" and "operate without an Israeli license."

Barkat also mentioned that the decision to remove the agency was triggered after the United States administration decided to end all funding to UNRWA.

He said that "The US decision has created a rare opportunity to replace UNRWA's services with services of the Jerusalem Municipality. We are putting an end to the lie of the 'Palestinian refugee problem' and the attempts at creating a false sovereignty within a sovereignty."

Barkat added that the decision was in coordination with the Israeli government.

Following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the United Nations founded UNWRA, to help resettle nearly 700,000 Palestinians after the Arab-Israeli war; UNRWA says that there are 5.3 million Palestinian refugees in the world.

UNRWA currently provides services to some 5 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the occupied Palestinian territories, and the besieged Gaza Strip.

UNRWA included descendants of the original Palestinian refugees in its total sum of refugees who fled or were expelled from their homes after the 1948 war, as well as those refugees who fled during the 1967 Six Day war.

Meanwhile, Israel and the US have criticized UNRWA for its count of Palestinian refugees, which included the descendants and not only the original refugees displaced from their homes.

The US demanded that UNRWA "figures out the actual number of true Palestinian refugees" emphasizing that the total is not correct, in order to restore aid funds to the agency.

In July, a new bill, entitled "The UNRWA Reform and Refugee Support Act," was introduced in the US Congress that recognizes only 40,000 Palestinian refugees instead of 5.3 million refugees.

The newly introduced bill would ensure that the contributed to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) would go towards the resettlement of Palestinians displaced by the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, and not their descendants – who are a total number of 5.3 million people.

According to Republican Congressman and initiator of the bill, Doug Lamborn, said that the "refugee status is not something that can be handed down from generation to generation," referring to the descendants of Palestinian refugees who were born and are living in other countries.

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