AL Jazeera: US UNRWA aid cut to harm Palestinian refugees in Syria

As US President Donald Trump pulls back funding for the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, Palestinians in Syria are facing "life-threatening" conditions, the agency's spokesperson said.

"Palestinians are among those worst affected by the [Syrian] conflict," said UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness, explaining that 95 percent of 438,000 Palestinians in the war-torn country are "in critical need of sustained humanitarian assistance".

"The war in Syria has devastated lives with incalculable cruelty. In this situation, many of the services UNRWA provides are often literally life-saving," Gunness told Al Jazeera, referring to UNRWA's makeshift clinics, emergency assistance and teaching staff that educates 45,000 students a day.

Nearly 58 percent of Palestinians in Syria are internally displaced, with upwards of 56,600 trapped in hard-to-reach or inaccessible parts of the war-ravaged country, he added.

Earlier this month, the Trump administration announced that the US will indefinitely withhold $65m of its planned $125m in financial contributions to UNRWA, prompting outrage from Palestinians and humanitarian groups.

Salim Salamah, director of the Palestinian League for Human Rights - Syria, argued that Palestinian refugees in Syria and those who have been doubly displaced to neighbouring countries will suffer as a result of the decision.

"The impact is going to be really massive and tragic," he told Al Jazeera.

"For Palestinians of Syria, it's life-saving aid, especially in the context that many Palestinians lack access to many basic services, even [those who fled] in Lebanon or Jordan."

Salamah added: "It falls within the long-standing tradition of eroding the existence of Palestinians ... and it is tragic."

'At stake is dignity'

Earlier this month, US Department of State spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the decision was not "aimed at punishing anyone".

Responding at the time, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl said: "At stake is the dignity and human security of millions of Palestine refugees, in need of emergency food assistance and other support."

The move came just weeks after Trump took to Twitter to accuse the Palestinians of showing "no appreciation or respect" for hundreds of millions of dollars in US aid each year.

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