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September 1, 2018 2:44 pm

The IDF’s UNRWA Nightmare: Hundreds of Thousands Rioting on Gaza Border

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

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Palestinian rioters during clashes with Israeli security forces on the Gaza Israeli border east of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip on April 20, 2018. Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90

Despite the support voiced by many Israeli politicians, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu first among them, for the US decision on Friday to cut all funding to the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA, the IDF General Staff feels otherwise, Israeli media reports said on Saturday.

According to the Hebrew news site Walla, the IDF is deeply concerned about the possibility of a nightmare scenario in which UNRWA collapses and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians deprived of UNRWA jobs and basic services in Gaza march on the border with Israel, dwarfing the current ongoing “March of Return” riots.

Walla said that the General Staff fears that a mass march of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians would be extremely violent, and the IDF will be forced to use much stronger methods to put it down than it has so far employed. Israel has already been widely criticized for using excessive force against rioters, an accusation Israel rejects, saying it only fires on those seeking to breach the border fence or commit acts of terrorism.

The General Staff believes that its nightmare scenario could take shape as early as January 2019, when UNRWA will exhaust its current resources. According to sources in the security establishment, it is believed that without alternative funding sources or a major attempt at rehabilitating the Gaza economy, the situation will become explosive.

Israel’s security establishment apparently recommended an alternative scenario in which funding to UNRWA is slowly lowered over time in concurrence with the construction of industrial areas and other sources of employment in the coastal enclave. The US, however, chose more drastic measures.

UNRWA is currently the largest employer in the Gaza Strip and provides basic services to more than 1.3 million Palestinians registered as refugees.

Israel rejects the UNRWA definition of “refugee,” in which both those who fled Israel during the 1948 War of Independence and their descendants are given refugee status. As a result, there are now five million Palestinians listed as refugees by UNRWA, the majority of whom have never set foot in Israel.

The Palestinians demand that all these refugees be allowed to “return” to Israel proper, which would effectively destroy the Jewish state by pure weight of demography. Israel categorically rejects any such scenario.

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