By Sebastien Malo
NEW YORK, Feb 11 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Palestinian authorities and the United Nations made a joint call for funding on Wednesday amid tension between Palestinians and Israelis that has led to violence and some 200 deaths, mainly of Palestinians, in recent months.
This year the yearly funding appeal sought $571 million to alleviate the sufferings of Palestinians in the poverty-stricken Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
The bulk of the money will go on food aid for 1.6 million people, roughly one in three residents of the Palestinian territories, the United Nations and the Ministry of Planning of the Palestinian National Authority said.
The population of the occupied Palestinian territories at the end of 2015 stood at 4.75 million, according to Palestinian Bureau of Statistics figures cited by a U.N. spokeswoman.
The appeal comes amid a wave of near-daily Palestinian attacks on Israelis since October last year, which have included stabbings, shootings and car rammings. The attacks have killed 27 Israelis and one U.S. citizen.
Israeli forces have killed at least 156 Palestinians in that period, 101 of them assailants, the authorities say. Other Palestinians have died during violent anti-Israeli protests.
The bloodshed has been fueled partly by Palestinian frustration over long-stalled peace talks and anger at perceived Jewish encroachment on a contested Jerusalem shrine.
The upsurge of violence is unlikely to sour the funding appeal, said retired U.S. Ambassador Phil Wilcox, a former consul general for the U.S. Department of State in Jerusalem and an adjunct scholar at the Washington, DC-based Middle East Institute.
Donor fatigue, on the other hand, could affect the appeal in light of the global refugee crisis, with 6.6 million people uprooted and more than 4.6 million refugees as a result of Syria’s civil war. Nations pledged earlier this month to give Syrians $11 billion in aid by 2020 at a donors’ conference in London.
“The funds that are available are increasingly strained,” Wilcox said in a phone interview. “That would be an inhibiting factor although there would be no reduction in funds specifically designed to punish or deter the Palestinians.”
Appealing to donors, U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Robert Piper emphasized the toll 48 years of occupation of swathes of Palestinian territories by Israel had taken on Palestinians.
“After such a prolonged period of stress, and many cycles of shocks – particularly for the residents of Gaza – the coping capacity of many Palestinian households is at the point of exhaustion,” he said in a statement.
The United Nations says some 92,000 people are still displaced in the Gaza Strip as a result of the 50-day 2014 Gaza war.
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