The United Nations Fourth Committee has accused the Israeli authorities of obstructing efforts to reconstruct the Gaza Strip, which was devastated during the Israeli war in 2008/2009. Life in Gaza, claims the UN, will not be viable if the siege is not lifted.
"The mission of reconstructing the Gaza Strip has become more difficult for UNRWA because of Israel's delayed approval of projects," said the Committee, which is charged with looking into projects for "decolonisation". "The delays cost UNRWA $5m in addition expenses, which has to be taken from money donated to help refugees."
Reduced financial support for UNRWA from donor countries has, warned the Committee, led to a decrease in the level of services offered to Palestinian refugees: "This is dangerous morally and politically."
The Commissioner General of UNRWA, Filippo Grandi, said: "The agency is still facing two main challenges in affording basic humanitarian services for the Palestinian refugees: widespread conflicts in the Middle East and the scarcity of financial support."
Mr Grandi was quoted by UN Radio: "In 2020, the population of the Gaza Strip is expected to have risen by 500,000 people and they will need education and work." He stressed the need to lift the siege on Gaza and kick-start the economy "to provide viable conditions for life".