Palestinians in east Lebanon accuse UNRWA of 'conspiracy'

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Residents of a Palestinian refugee camp in east Lebanon marched to protest the U.N. Relief and Works Agency's recent modifications to its health care services, accusing the body of “conspiring” against them.

Protesters marched in the streets of the Wavel refugee camp, also known at the Jaleel camp, in the city of Baalbek near the UNRWA office in the area.

Fatah representative Khaled Othman said the UNRWA measures are “a clear indication of a political plot against” Palestinian refugees.

He said services offered by the agency are “a legal and humanitarian right" for Palestinians.

“We will defend the [demands of the Palestinians] until our last breath,” he added, reading aloud a joint statement representing different factions.

He also revealed that Palestinian representatives met with General Security chief Brig. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim and other senior Lebanese officials to brief them on their demands.

Palestinian Popular Committees member Karim Taha also addressed demonstrators, warning that the “sufferings of the people at the doors of hospitals are increasing due to [UNRWA’s] decision.”

He lashed out at UNRWA’s director for Lebanon Matthias Schmale, accusing him of trying to create a rift between the Palestinian employees and demonstrators.

“UNRWA’s administration is turning a deaf ear to all initiatives and solutions,” he said.

All five main offices of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency were forcibly shut down Thursday by a committee formed of Palestinian factions.

Separately, a demonstration was held at the entrance of the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh in the southern city of Sidon against UNRWA’s policies.

Protests had erupted last month after UNRWA changed its policy obliging Palestinians to pay a share of the cost of secondary medical treatment in exchange for further financial support in tertiary treatment.

Activists decried the move, saying it represented a broader withdrawal of support for Palestinians.

UNRWA insisted that the new policy was not a decrease of aid but rather a shift in the allocation of resources toward tertiary treatment which tends to be more expensive.

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