Government pledges €4.7m to help Palestinian refugees

Minister for Foreign Affairs says he is ‘truly shocked’ by destruction in Gaza after war

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has announced that the Government is to provide €4.7 million in funding to UN agencies working with Palestinian refugees. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has announced that the Government is to provide €4.7 million in funding to UN agencies working with Palestinian refugees. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.

 

The Government has pledged funding of €4.7 million for UN agencies working with Palestinian refugees.

The announcement was made in Gaza on Monday by Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan, who said he was “truly shocked” to see the destruction left by last year’s war and its impact on people in the enclave.

Mr Flanagan’s visit to Gaza was one of the first engagements on a week-long trip to the Middle East. He is due to meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Tel Aviv and Ramallah before going to Jordan, where he will visit the Al Zaatari refugee camp. At the weekend he met Irish peacekeepers in Lebanon.

Most of the new Irish funding (€4 million) will go to the general fund of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides support to about five million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza strip. A further €500,000 will be given directly to UNRWA’s programmes in Gaza, with €200,000 allocated to the UN’s emergency response fund.

‘Appalling effects’

“I have seen for myself today the appalling effects of last year’s conflict in Gaza,” Mr Flanagan said. “The sheer scale of the destruction and the devastating humanitarian impact on a largely refugee population is truly shocking.”

Seven weeks of Israeli bombardment from air and sea, and rocket attacks on Israel, left more than 2,200 people dead - the great majority of them Palestinians in Gaza. More than 10,000 Gazans and some 700 Israelis were wounded while some 20,000 homes in the strip were estimated to have been left uninhabitable by shelling and air strikes.

Mr Flanagan described Ireland as a “steadfast supporter” of the Palestinian people and said the latest funding brought Irish support for UNRWA to over €48 million since 2005.

The agency runs schools, clinics and social services for displaced Palestinians across the region while building infrastructure and maintaining camps. During the war in Gaza last summer, its schools gave shelter to hundreds of thousands of families forced to flee their homes. Some of those schools are still being used as temporary housing for more than 10,000 displaced people whose homes were destroyed.

Peaceful solution

Mr Flanagan said the long-term prosperity and wellbeing of the Palestinian people would depend on successful political negotiations, and Ireland would continue actively to support a “lasting and peaceful solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In Gaza, where he met UNWRA commissioner general Pierre Krähenbühl and visited one of its schools, Mr Flanagan paid tribute to the agency’s staff for their work under “very difficult and extreme circumstances.”

After visiting the strip, he went to Netiv HaAsara, an Israeli cooperative farming village adjacent to northern Gaza. The community - one of the closest to the Gaza border - has been the target of Hamas rocket attacks for many years and was guarded by the Israeli military during last summer’s conflict after a Gaza tunnel opening was found nearby. Israel said it destroyed at least 34 tunnels it discovered during the war.

Mr Flanagan’s is due to meet Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday.