Press Releases

    3 November 2004

    Speakers in Fourth Committee Express Support for UNWRA’s Humanitarian Work, Call for Adequate Funding, Ease of Israeli Restrictions

    NEW YORK, 2 November (UN Headquarters) -- Speakers continued to express strong support for the humanitarian work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and called for the alleviation of its budgetary problems, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) continued its consideration of the Agency’s annual report.

    Many speakers also called on Israel to cease from measures which, they said, constricted the Agency’s ability to move staff and provide assistance. The representative of Bangladesh said that those measures resulted from a policy of collective punishment, including unprecedented destruction of homes and property, curfews, incursions, restrictions of movement and denial of humanitarian access.  He said the Israeli army had destroyed buildings and equipment belonging to UNRWA, and school children had been killed in classrooms.  He demanded that Israel ensure unrestricted mobility and non-interference in the activities of the Agency.

    Supporting UNRWA’s humanitarian mandate, Israel’s representative said that the extremely difficult conditions under which the Agency worked were caused by Palestinian terrorism, which had killed over 1,000 Israelis since 2000. To make matters worse, terror groups had also abused internationally protected emblems such as that of the United Nations and the Red Crescent.  Seventeen UNRWA employees had been convicted or were under indictment for crimes including membership in terrorist organizations, possession of explosives and manufacture of bombs.

    The Agency, he added, must end such abuses and promote its vital mission without politicizing and grandstanding. In that light, his country was interested in further developing dialogue with the Agency.

    The representative of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, condemned terrorism and said the Union recognized the right of Israel to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks.  He stressed, however, that the exercise of that right must take place within the boundaries of international law.

    Concerned that refugees had been increasingly affected by the severe deterioration of the humanitarian conditions in the West Bank and Gaza, he appealed to the Israeli Government to stop all actions that aggravated the situation and restricted UNRWA’s work.  He also urged the Palestinian Authority to implement in full and without further delay the reform package agreed on with the international community in the framework of the Task Force on Palestinian Reform.  The Union, he said, reaffirmed its commitment to a negotiated two-State solution through the Road Map, the only way to a just and lasting solution to the problem.

    The Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Peter Hansen, responded to issues brought up by the representative of Israel and welcomed further dialogue with that Government.

    Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Japan, Malaysia, Morocco, Viet Nam, South Africa, Norway, Kuwait, Turkey, Sudan, Canada, Cuba, China and United States.

    A representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) also spoke.

    The observer of Palestine spoke in the exercise of the right of reply.

    The Committee will meet again at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, 8 November to conclude its debate on UNRWA and take up the Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories.

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