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GAZA, August 16, 2018 (News Wires) - Schools teaching half a million Palestinian refugees will reopen across the Middle East as planned later this month, a UN agency said on Thursday, despite funding cuts by its biggest donor the United States.

The opening of the schools on August 29 had been in doubt after the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said it lacked funds to pay the 22,000 teachers in its educational network in the Gaza Strip, the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, and Jordan and Syria.

UNRWA said students will return to its 711 schools on time though it still did not have enough money to fund them for a full school year.

UN officials said the agency needed more than $200 million from other contributors to cover its deficit after the US aid cuts.

US President Donald Trump said in January he would scale back aid to the Palestinians unless they cooperated with his plans to revive peacemaking with Israel. Those peace efforts stalled in 2014.

At a specially convened session of the UNRWA Advisory Commission in Amman, Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl said that since the beginning of the year the agency had received $238 million in additional contributions after a funding drive but was not "out of the woods".

"We currently only have funding to run the agency's services until the end of September," Krahenbuhl said in a statement. "We need a further $217 million to ensure that our schools not only open but can be run until the end of the year."

UNRWA was founded in 1949 after the first Arab-Israel war, which led to 700,000 Palestinians being forced to leave their homes or flee. It helps around 5 million Palestinian refugees, a figure that includes descendants of those displaced by the fighting.

In January, Trump tweeted "we pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect. They don't even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel." The US State Department has said the agency needed to make unspecified reforms.

BEIRUT, August 10, 2018 (News Wires) - The UN children's agency says a battle for Syria's Idlib province between government forces and the rebels could affect the lives of more than 1 million children, many of whom live in refugee camps.

UNICEF says food, water, and medicine are already in short supply in the largely rural northwestern province, now home to over 1 million Syrians who have been displaced from their homes by government offensives across the country.

The agency says a battle for Idlib, the last major bastion for Syria's political and military opposition, would exacerbate an already dire humanitarian situation, and potentially displace 350,000 children.

Syria's government dropped leaflets across the province Thursday urging residents to reconcile with its rule. Officials have warned that government forces will take back the province by force if necessary.



OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, August 9, 2018 (News Wires) — The United Nations’ Mideast envoy is expressing his concern about the latest escalation of hostilities in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas.

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN special envoy who is involved in Egyptian efforts to broker a truce, said in a statement on Thursday that he’s “deeply alarmed” by “multiple rockets fired towards communities in southern Israel” the day before.

Mladenov’s statement came amid the latest surge in violence this week, in which Hamas fired over 150 rockets at Israel which in return, out over 140 airstrikes in the Gaza Strip.

Mladenov says that for months, he has warned the “humanitarian, security and political crisis in Gaza risks a devastating conflict that nobody wants.”

He added that “if the current escalation however is not contained immediately, the situation can rapidly deteriorate with devastating consequences for all people.”

Israeli warplanes hit struck dozens of targets in the Gaza Strip early this morning and three people were reported killed there, while Palestinian gunmen from the territory fired scores of rockets into Israel in a fierce burst of violence overnight.

The flare-up comes as Egypt is trying to broker a long-term cease-fire between the two sides.

Cairo, August 1, 2018 - The government preparatory meeting for the United Nations high-level conference on South-South Cooperation has ended.
Egypt's Foreign Ministry, in cooperation with the United Nations, hosted the two-day meeting.

The Assistant Foreign Minister for International Cooperation for Development, Ambassador Hany Selim, and the UN Secretary-General's Envoy on South-South Cooperation, Jorge Chediek, inaugurated the meeting.

Attending were officials from the Foreign Ministry who reviewed Egypt's vision of cooperation among southern countries.
Egypt's hosting of the meeting underscores its leading role during its presidency of the G77 as well as its upcoming presidency of the African Union (AU), Ambassador Selim said.

It also highlights appreciation of Egypt's role in boosting cooperation among south countries.

Officials from over 60 nations, regional and international organizations, financing institutions, development agencies attended the meeting.The aim was to set out a clear vision on upgrading cooperation among south countries so as to achieve the goals of sustainable development, in accordance with the 2030 international development agenda.

Geneva, July 31, 2018 (News Wires) - The UN peace envoy for Syria said on Tuesday that he plans to host Iran, Russia and Turkey for talks in September on finalising a committee to write a new Syrian constitution.

Staffan de Mistura, whose past efforts to push forward a Syrian peace deal have achieved no breakthroughs, was tasked with setting up the committee during a Russian-backed congress held in Sochi in January.

"The Special Envoy looks forward to holding formal consultations with the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Turkey, very early in September in Geneva, in order to begin to finalise the constitutional committee," de Mistura's office said in a statement.

Russia and Iran have supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad through the conflict, while Turkey has backed opposition groups.

The UN envoy told the Security Council last week that he wants to have the constitutional committee in place before world leaders meet at the General Assembly in late September.

The Syrian government has expressed reservations about the proposal but in May, it sent a list of names of officials to take part in the new diplomatic effort. The opposition recently also sent its list of delegates.

More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since Syria's war started in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.

DAMASCUS, July 26, 2018 (AFP) - Syrian relief workers and the United Nations began distributing humanitarian assistance provided by France to the battered region of Eastern Ghouta on Thursday, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent announced.

The organisation said on Twitter "3,840 blankets, 572 kitchen kits and tents from (the) French aid," as well as 30 medical kits, were being handed out onThursday.

Pictures published by SARC show a convoy of their trucks and UN vehicles, as well as blankets being handed out to a child and adults.

A source from the organisation told AFP a total of seven trucks entered Douma, the main town in Ghouta, and unloaded the aid there.

Residents of Eastern Ghouta had faced five years of crippling siege during which even the most basic food and medicines were virtually unaffordable, forcing around 400,000 people to rely on UN aid deliveries.

SARC did not say exactly who or how many people would benefit from the latest aid delivery.

The assistance was part of a humanitarian aid operation coordinated between Moscow and Paris, the first such mission between Russia and a Western country.

More than 40 tonnes of medical aid and humanitarian supplies were loaded onto a Russian military cargo plane in the central French city of Chateauroux early Saturday.

The supplies, including medicine, clothes and tents, was flown to the Russian military base in Syria's Hmeimim before being brought to the outskirts of Damascus on Thursday.

France had said it had secured "guarantees" from Russia that the Syrian regime would not obstruct the distribution of the aid, and that it would not be misappropriated or used for political purposes.

"This humanitarian operation, conducted jointly with Russia, is being implemented under the supervision of the United Nations in Syria," a French foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.

Syrian troops recaptured Ghouta from rebels in April, after a blistering assault which killed hundreds and ended in a surrender deal that transferred tens of thousands of opposition fighters and civilians out of the area.

Thousands stayed in the suburb and others have returned in recent weeks, although many of Ghouta's towns remain in ruins.

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