Saudi Arabia signed three documents Thursday to donate $59 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in the areas near the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Among the three agreements, one was signed for $43.5 million and will support ongoing projects in Gaza to restore shelters destroyed during the 2014 conflict with Israel.
A statement from the United Nations said Thursday that the $43.5 million agreement will also include the repair of over 7,500 shelters for Palestinians whose homes were destroyed during the 2014 conflict and will help to maintain the schools of UNRWA. Over 9,000 homes in Gaza were reportedly destroyed during the 2014 conflict.
The second agreement for $8 million will provide funds for the maintenance of nine UNRWA schools and 10 health centers in Jordan. The other agreement, valued at $7.5 million, will arrange funds for “reconstructing, furnishing and equipping” three health centers in West Bank.
“I am extremely grateful to the government and the people of Saudi Arabia for the sustained support that the Kingdom has extended to UNRWA over the years,” UNRWA Commissioner- General Pierre Krähenbühl said in London, where the agreements were signed with Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) Managing Director Yousef al-Bassam, according to the statement.
Krähenbühl also said, according to the statement: “Their contributions have made an enormous difference in the lives of thousands of Palestine refugees. I would like to express particular appreciation for the role played by the Saudi Fund for Development in delivering Saudi assistance. Our partnership with the Fund is deeply rewarding.”
So far, Saudi Arabia has donated over $500 million to UNRWA and over the last three years, the country has become the third largest donor to the organization.
“UNRWA is playing a vital role in providing basic needs and social services for Palestine refugees,” Al-Bassam said, according to the statement, adding: “The Government of Saudi Arabia, through the Saudi Fund for Development, will continue its support to the Palestinian people in all fields.”
Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza after the Palestinian movement Hamas gained power following an election in 2006, and the former claims that the blockade is necessary to prevent militants from Palestine from procuring materials that may help them make weapons. However, the siege has been condemned by Palestinians and human rights activists who say that the blockade has hurt the civilians in Gaza, as over 80 percent of the region now relies on humanitarian aid.