Biden Visit Fuels Tension

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Palestine accuses Israel of escalating tension in West Bank ahead of Biden’s visit

Palestine accused Israel of escalating tension in the West Bank ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit to the region on July 13.

“The Israeli occupying power is anticipating the upcoming visit of President Biden to the region with more field executions and an escalation of its aggression against our people,” said the Palestinian foreign ministry in a press statement.

The ministry referred to the killing of a 20-year-old Palestinian by Israeli soldiers in a town south of the northern West Bank city of Jenin earlier in the day.

On Wednesday, the Palestinian health ministry said Rafiq Riyad Ghannam, 20, sustained severe wounds after being shot by Israeli soldiers during confrontations in Jabaa town.

Ghannam was shot as he was standing in front of his family’s house before he was detained along with another youth by the heavily-armed soldiers, according to his family.

The family said their son “was deliberately cold-bloodedly murdered by the soldiers, who shot and wrapped his body in black plastic before taking him away.”

Holding the Israeli government fully responsible for killing Ghannam, the statement called on the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israel for committing “war crimes.”

The Israeli military, however, said in a statement that it had conducted “counterterrorism activity” in Jabaa early on Wednesday, adding the Palestinian young man was “attempting to flee the scene,” which prompted the Israeli soldiers to open fire.

The death of Ghannam brings the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers in the city of Jenin and its refugee camp to 29 this year, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

Palestine earlier warned against the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, saying it would undermine the prospects for a two-state solution and the chances of making peace.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that expanding Israeli settlement in the Palestinian territories “would have a catastrophic influence on implementing the principle of the two-state solution and achieving just and comprehensive peace.”

The warning came after Israeli settlement organizations announced on Tuesday that they were planning to build 10 new settlement outposts in the West Bank ahead of the Biden visit.

“These organizations, which receive official support from the Israeli government, have transformed from being individual to a broad group that has its own structures and sources of funding,” the statement said.

It held the Israeli government “fully and directly responsible for the illegal settlement and its destructive results on the political solutions of the conflict and for threatening to blow up violence in the entire region.”

More than 600,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, where Israel’s settlement activities are considered as violation of the international law.

On Thursday, two Palestinians were injured in clashes with Israeli soldiers, who arrested nine Palestinians in the West Bank, including a senior leader of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas).

The Palestinian Ministry of Health said in a statement that two young men were injured, including one in serious condition, in the Dheisheh refugee camp near the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

FUNDING CRISIS

The UN agency for Palestine refugees now faces a funding shortfall of over 100 million U.S. dollars for 2022 after Thursday’s pledging conference raised 160 million dollars, said Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the agency, on Friday.

The shortfall is consistent with the discrepancy of funds that the agency has faced every year for almost a decade. The agency has so far been able to move along through a number of austerity and cost-control measures. But today it is no longer possible to sustain, Lazzarini said. “There is very little to cut from our cost without, in fact, cutting our services.”

If the funding gap fails to be filled in the next couple of months, the delivery of education to more than half a million girls and boys, or the access to primary health care for close to 2 million people, or the emergency food and cash assistance to the poorest Palestine refugees might be seriously at risk, he warned. “We have entered a danger zone.”

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“It is not the time to turn our back on some of the most successful human development story in the Middle East. This can only fuel further despair and the feeling of abandonment of one of the most destitute communities in the region at a time when there is a lack of political horizon, and unprecedented economic crisis and multiple conflicts,” Lazzarini told reporters. “Fatigue should not be an option, and indifference to this, I would say, even less.”

Finding a solution to the agency’s chronic financial problem requires political will to match the support for the mandate with sufficient resources, he said. “We are expected to provide government-like services to one of the most destitute communities in the region. But we are funded like an NGO because we depend completely on voluntary contributions.”

The agency, officially known as the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, currently helps some 5.6 million Palestine refugees and their descendants in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria as well as in West Bank and Gaza, by providing education, primary health, and social protection.

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