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UN spent additional $2.5 million due to Israeli security procedures in Palestinian territory

UN spent additional $2.5 million due to Israeli security procedures in Palestinian territory

The main United Nations agency helping Palestinian refugees today said it has spent more than $2.5 million of its budget on additional costs related to security measures imposed by Israel in Gaza and the West Bank.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) released the figures after countries at a donor meeting in Amman asked the Agency to provide details surrounding the money diverted from its humanitarian aid operations.

UNRWA said charges imposed by Israel for search procedures came on top of heavy losses caused by movement restrictions that have stopped staff reaching their places of work since the start of the Intifada in September 2000.

“What we find unreasonable and unique are charges levied by Israel for searching consignments of food and medicine destined for the occupied Palestinian territory,” UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen told the meeting. “This amounts to a tax on humanitarian aid. This is just one of the many issues we have raised with the Israeli authorities in our ongoing dialogue aimed at improving the Agency’s humanitarian access.”

The Agency said it has also been forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars more on repairs to its buildings that have been damaged during military operations. UNRWA recently submitted a claim for $535,000 in compensation to the Israeli Government just to cover the cost of building damage.

According to UNRWA, the Agency lost 72,000 teacher-work days during the 2001-02 academic year because of movement restrictions imposed on its staff. In addition, in the first eight months of this year, the Agency lost 11,000 staff workdays at its health clinics. Despite efforts to redeploy staff so that they could work close to their homes and avoid checkpoints, the Agency’s 34 health clinics in the West Bank still lost a total of 340 treatment days.

UNRWA said it has also incurred further costs because closures have forced the Agency to accommodate staff in hotels when they become trapped by curfews, while security procedures have forced it to use commercial trucking firms rather than use its own fleet.