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Head of UN agency for Palestine refugees urges greater relief aid to ease tensions

Head of UN agency for Palestine refugees urges greater relief aid to ease tensions

The head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) today called for more humanitarian aid to the region in order to stem mounting tensions there.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen told a press briefing at UN Headquarters in New York that the 4 million refugees in the Middle East constituted "an extremely essential part of the conflict - some will find it to be the core issue."

He said the Agency, which is currently experiencing a financial crisis, is facing increasing demands for services. "This is a very, very difficult situation for us and it has of course been exacerbated by events over the past 11 months, where we have seen a great many deaths, a great many disabilities, a great deterioration in the social and economic situation of the refugees," he said.

He estimated that the Agency would only receive 50 per cent of needed funding this year, warning that this would result in a reduction in the emergency relief now being provided, "and I have all the reason in the world to worry that this cut-off, if indeed we will be forced to, will further exacerbate the situation, which is very tense already."

Reacting to an incursion in Jenin last night during which he said 13 people had been killed and some 150 wounded, Mr. Hansen said, "One can only hope and pray that this ever increasing tension will be lowered so we will have a chance to catch up on what must be done in terms of providing the basic minimum for the refugees."

Regarding yesterday's terrorist attacks against the United States, Mr. Hansen said there had not been widespread rejoicing in response. "Some of you may have seen some footage of that repeated over and over again; there may be 10 people in that piece of television tape. I'm informed that the mosques today in the morning in Gaza had encouraged people to go out and celebrate but that they had not been followed."

"It is my hope that all Palestinians will join in the solidarity expressed with the victims of yesterday," he said.

UNRWA provides education, health, relief aid and social services to 3.8 million registered Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.