Thousands of employees of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) staged a protest in Gaza City yesterday to protest the agency's plan to scale down its operations.
More than 13,000 staff members attended the march that began at the Gaza headquarters of UNRWA, including senior figures from the Palestinian resistance group Hamas and other political factions.
The head of Gaza's UNRWA employees' union, Amir al-Meshaal called on the U.N. to find a "permanent solution" to the agency's chronic funding shortfall so that it "can't be subjected to political blackmail."
The agency earlier announced it would cut more than 250 jobs in Gaza and the West Bank and make over 500 other positions part-time, as it seeks to survive crippling financial shortfalls caused by U.S. aid cuts. Washington has provided more than $350 million a year for the agency, but US President Donald Trump pulled all funding earlier this year. More than five million Palestinians are eligible for UNRWA support, while around three million access its services. The job cuts have sparked fierce protests, with UNRWA's head in Gaza accusing the agency's labor union in the enclave of "mutiny." Around 80 percent of Palestinians in the impoverished Gaza Strip are eligible for UNRWA aid, while the agency employs around 13,000 people there. Unemployment is high in the enclave and employees say their families will be at risk if they are laid off from the agency. The United Nations warned last week that the situation in Gaza is "catastrophic" after 11 years under a crippling Israeli blockade, during which Hamas and Israel have fought three wars.
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