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Donor nations laud 'remarkable' efforts by UN agency aiding Palestine refugees

Donor nations laud 'remarkable' efforts by UN agency aiding Palestine refugees

The European Union (EU) will continue to urge the Israeli authorities to ease restrictions imposed on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), an EU representative told a meeting of donors in Amman, Jordan today.

Following a briefing by the Agency on the limits it faces in trying to provide humanitarian assistance to millions of Palestine refugees, the European Union representative, Leo D'Aes, said, "if we can support UNRWA in any way we will gladly do so."

He welcomed the report on UNRWA's access problems, saying, "This gives the EU the additional information it needs for its contacts with the Israeli authorities."

"The European Union is always impressed by UNRWA's performance," said Mr. D'Aes, calling the Agency's accomplishments "truly remarkable compared with the limited resources" available.

According to a statement released by UNRWA in connection with the meeting, the Agency has 42 truckloads of medical supplies stranded in the West Bank which are destined for distribution in Gaza. "In defiance of international convention, Israel insists these supplies must be unloaded and searched," the Agency said. The 72 checkpoints operating in the West Bank have delayed or halted the delivery of supplies to health clinics, schools and food distribution centres.

UNRWA staff have been unable to get to work, school days have been lost because of closures, and the Agency has been forced to spend money intended for humanitarian aid on storage fees for goods blocked by the Israeli authorities, the statement said. Agency representatives told the meeting that UNRWA's humanitarian work is being "choked" by the actions of the Israeli Defence Forces.

Also at the meeting, UNRWA welcomed the European Commission's announcement that it will increase its contribution to the Agency's general fund next year from €120 million to €174 million (euros).