Frustrated Palestinians Storm Gaza UN HQ over Suspension of Assistance

GAZA, January 28, 2015 (WAFA) – Palestinians angry at their deterorating living conditions in the Gaza Strip stormed the United Nations headquarters to protest UNRWA’s announcement to suspend its cash assistance program for the homeless families.

The Anadolu news agency reported that angry Palestinians demonstrated opposite to the UNRWA headquarters, which houses other UN agencies’ offices, burning tires, and proceeded to storm the headquarter, throwing stones at the compound’s gate and smashing its windows.

Organized by the Hamas-affiliated National Commission for Breaking the Blockade and Reconstruction, the protest features hundreds of homeless Palestinians condemning UNRWA’s announcement that it could not afford to fund repairing tens of thousands of houses demolished or destroyed during the latest deadly Israeli onslaught on the strip.

“The international community and Arab states who pledged to fund Gaza reconstruction are fully responsible for any consequences that could happen as a result of the UN agency’s decision,” said Spokesperson for the Commission Adham Abu Salmia.

Abu Salmia called on the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Palestinian Authority to take an immediate action to save Gaza from this catastrophic situation.

UNRWA announced Tuesday that it was forced “to suspend its cash assistance programme in Gaza to tens of thousands of people for repairs to damaged and destroyed homes and for rental subsidies to the homeless.”

It said that while $720 million is required for rental subsidies and repairs to over 96,000 Palestinian refugee families, whose homes were damaged or destroyed during last summer’s conflict, it has so far received only $135 million in pledges, leaving a shortfall of $585 million.

The UN Agency announced that the sum of $100 million is urgently needed in the first quarter of 2015 to allow families with minor damage to repair their homes and to provide ongoing rental subsidies, including to the thousands of families who left UNRWA-run collective centers and found alternative rental accommodation.

It expressed its concerns that “if it cannot continue to provide rental subsidies, large numbers may return to the collective centers, where almost 12,000 displaced Palestinians continue to seek shelter.”

The UN Agency warned of the ‘grave consequences’ that could affect the Palestinian people in Gaza should donors persist to fail to honor their financial pledges made at Cairo-based Gaza Reconstruction Conference.

“People are desperate and the international community cannot even provide the bare minimum – for example, a repaired home in winter – let alone lifting the blockade, access to markets or freedom of movement. We’ve said before that quiet will not last, and now the quiet is at risk,” said the UN agency in the press release.

Israel waged its latest onslaught on the Gaza Strip on August 7 of 2014, which lasted for 51 days. During the time, over 2,200 Palestinians were killed, mostly unarmed civilians, while another 11,000 were injured, according to the Ministry of Health.

Arab and world countries pledged to offer $5.4 billion; half of it to reconstruct the Gaza Strip and the other to meet the needs of Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority’s budget.