MIDDLE EAST

UNRWA slams Israeli plans to close Jerusalem office

AA Photo

UN refugee agency UNRWA on Tuesday decried as "irresponsible" Israeli plans to close the agency's offices in the occupied East Jerusalem.

"UNRWA is carrying out operations within the framework of the UN Charter and bilateral and multilateral agreements which are still valid as well as relevant resolutions of the UN General Assembly," UNRWA spokesman Christopher Gunness told Jordan's Petra news agency.

He said the refugee agency has been authorized by the UN to provide protection and aid to Palestinian refugees in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem.

"Such messages by top elected figures in Israel are irresponsible and very serious," he said.

Last week, Israel's Jerusalem municipality announced plans to remove the UN agency from the occupied city.

According to Israeli Channel Two, U.S. President Donald Trump's recent decision to end financial aid to UNRWA has encouraged Israel to take move.

The broadcaster said that the Israeli move was planned in coordination with the U.S. administration and will soon be presented to the Israeli government for approval.

In September, the U.S. State Department announced that Washington would "no longer commit funding" to UNRWA.

The U.S. had been UNRWA's largest contributor by far, providing it with $350 million annually -- roughly one quarter of the agency's overall budget.

Established in 1949, UNRWA provides critical aid to Palestinian refugees in the blockaded Gaza Strip, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Jerusalem remains at the heart of the Middle East conflict, with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem -- occupied by Israel since 1967 -- might eventually serve as the capital of an independent Palestinian state.

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