UN formally approves extension of Palestinian refugee agency’s mandate
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Israel, US the only countries to oppose extending UNRWA

UN formally approves extension of Palestinian refugee agency’s mandate

General Assembly OKs series of measures critical of Israel, but none singling out any other state; monitor group slams ‘torrent of one-sided resolutions’

A Palestinian worker checks a truck carrying United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) aid supplies that arrived through the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel to the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah on May 12, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)
A Palestinian worker checks a truck carrying United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) aid supplies that arrived through the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel to the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah on May 12, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)

The United Nations on Friday adopted a series of measures critical of Israel and formally approved extending the mandate of its controversial agency for Palestinian refugees.

The General Assembly vote to extend UNRWA’s mandate until 2023 passed 169 to two, with only Israel and the United States opposing it.

Another nine countries abstained, among them Canada and Guatemala.

The resolution approved Friday called for “all donors to continue to strengthen their efforts to meet the anticipated needs of the agency” amid deteriorating socio-economic conditions in areas claimed by the Palestinians for a future state.

It was one of eight measures approved Friday that related to Israel. The General Assembly also passed a number of other resolutions that did not pertain to specific states.

A Palestinian woman attends a demonstration outside the outside UNRWA’s Headquarters in Gaza City, August 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

UNRWA was set up in the years after more than 700,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled their lands during the 1948 war surrounding the creation of Israel. It has repeatedly had its mandate extended since then.

Israel accuses the organization of perpetuating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by extending refugee status to millions of descendants, rather than the status only to the original refugees as is the norm with most refugee populations worldwide.

The Trump administration has made similar criticism of UNRWA and in 2018 suspended and later cut all funding to the agency.

UNRWA disputes the criticism and says the services it provides would otherwise not be available to Palestinians.

Praising the vote, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said it was “evidence that the entire world are standing with our people, its historical rights and its just cause,” according to the official Wafa news agency.

“It is a triumph for international law and the rights of the Palestinian refugees, until their issue is finally resolved in accordance with United Nations resolutions,” he said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, September 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Among the other resolutions passed Friday was one condemning Israel for its control over the Golan Heights, which it captured from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War, as well another approving a “special committee to investigate Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the Occupied territories.”

UN Watch, a pro-Israel monitor group, condemned the votes.

“The UN’s assault on Israel with a torrent of one-sided resolutions is surreal,” the group’s executive director Hillel Neuer said in a statement.

He condemned EU states such as France and Sweden for voting in favor of a number of the resolutions, but who “have failed to introduce a single UNGA resolution on the human rights situation” in China, Venezuela, Pakistan or in other countries.

UN Watch also noted the text of the resolution to extend UNRWA’s mandate made no mention of the internal probe into alleged mismanagement and ethical abuses, which the head of the agency resigned over.

An internal ethics report has alleged mismanagement and abuses of authority at the highest levels of the agency, which has also faced a financial crisis after US funding cuts.

Pierre Krähenbul, then commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), at a press conference in Gaza City on May 23, 2019. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

The report said the allegations include senior management engaging in “sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority, for personal gain, to suppress legitimate dissent, and to otherwise achieve their personal objectives.” Krahenbuhl himself was alleged to have been romantically involved with a colleague appointed in 2015 to a newly created role of senior adviser after an “extreme fast-track” process, the report said.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said the reports on alleged mismanagement at UNRWA lent credence to its criticism of the agency and called for a full release of the probe’s findings.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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