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UNRWA slams Israel decision to close its Palestinian schools

UNRWA slams Israel decision to close its Palestinian schools
Israel will close all UNRWA schools in East Jerusalem to replace them with Israeli-run schools in a blow to Palestinians. The agency has complained it was not told of this decision.

Israel’s National Security Council decided it will revoke permits for the schools which are run by the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) in East Jerusalem, the Times of Israel reports, citing Hadashot TV.

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The agency, which provides education, healthcare and social services for Palestinian refugees in East Jerusalem, Gaza, the West Bank Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, runs seven schools in Jerusalem which serve 3,000 students.

The report said the schools would come into the care of Israel’s Jerusalem Municipality that uses the curriculum set by the Israeli Education Ministry, a disturbing idea for Palestinians and their wish for self-determination. East Jerusalem is occupied Palestinian territory which Israel annexed in 1967. Israel views all of Jerusalem as its capital, while Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

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“UNRWA's existence in Jerusalem is not a gift from Israel,”UNRWA spokesman Sami Meshasha said in a statement on Sunday, explaining bilateral agreements bind Israel to“respect the agency's installations, jurisdiction, and immunity in Jerusalem.”

“In addition, Israel is a party to the 1946 Refugee Convention, and such attempts are in violation of this Convention,” he added.

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“This provocative step deliberately targets Palestinian refugees and their rights guaranteed by international and humanitarian law,” Hanan Ashrawi of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation executive committee said, adding that it “targets Jerusalem and its institutions within the framework of the occupying state's strategy of Judaizing the Holy City.”  

The move is the latest blow delivered to the agency after the US decision to pull $300 million in funding, leaving it struggling to cover its costs.  Israel and the US feel the UNRWA’s support for subsequent generations of Palestinian refugees is not accurate and threatens Israel’s Jewish majority.

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The decision follows a plan by Jerusalem’s outgoing mayor Nir Barkat to expel UNRWA from Jerusalem before he ended his term in December. Barkat said the Israeli municipality could control education, health, welfare, and sanitation services instead. He also planned to have municipal services take over functions in the Shuafat refugee camp, home to 20,000 Palestinians.

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