OPT: UN calls for more funds for Palestinian refugees

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AMMAN, Nov 18, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX News Network) -- The UNRWA Hosts and Donors Meeting kicked off Tuesday in Jordan's capital of Amman, with the cash- strapped UN aid agency calling for more funds for millions of Palestinian refugees.

The UNRWA, known as United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, expects its budget deficit for this year and the first quarter of 2009 to reach around 160 million U.S. dollars, Karen Koning AbuZayd, UNRWA commissioner general, told reporters.

"We are making special appeals to our Arab partners in the Gulf, " said AbuZayd after the first-day session of the two-day meeting. "We have had very good experiences with Gulf contributors in the past for major projects and we hope we will get the same kind of support."

The head of the UN agency also stressed the severe humanitarian situation facing Gaza residents imposed by Israeli blockade, saying that now is the "worst period we've ever seen" and that the agency's food warehouse is empty.

Israel resealed border crossings with the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, one day after it allowed 33 truckloads of supplies into Gaza for the first time in two weeks.

Citing continued rocket fires at its communities, Israel had not allowed the UNRWA to send in supplies since Nov. 4 during flare-up of violence between Israel and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

According to figures provided by the UNRWA, refugees registered with the agency has climbed to some 4.6 million as of the end of June 2008, up 2.5 percent over the previous year.

Established in 1949, the UNRWA has been the main provider of education, healthcare, relief and social services to Palestinian refugees scattered both in Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and in neighboring Arab host countries of Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.