The United Nations Relief and Works Agency — better known as UNRWA — was created after 750,000 Palestinians fled their homes during the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict. Refugees in the Gaza Strip will mark the 70th anniversary of that exodus on May 15, the culmination of the symbolic ‘Great Return March’ that has brought thousands of protesters to the territory’s border with Israel this month, where they have consistently met excessive, lethal force from the Israeli army. President Trump insists he can broker a deal to end the hostilities for good, but early this year his administration froze 83% of America’s funding for UNRWA, a move that could cripple the agency, intensify the situation along the Gaza border and undermine the chance for a lasting peace.
The U.N. resolution that created UNRWA charged the agency with providing relief to “prevent distress” among Palestinian refugees and furthering ‘conditions of peace and stability’. With contributions from the U.N. member nations, including the United States — UNRWA’s most loyal and generous supporter — the agency has supplied essential food, water, healthcare and education to roughly 5 million people in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
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