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Gaza refugees demand UNRWA rebuild homes

Dec. 19, 2011 8:18 A.M. (Updated: Dec. 21, 2011 9:38 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Dozens of Palestinian refugees protested at UNRWA headquarters in the Gaza Strip on Monday, calling for the UN agency to rebuild their homes five years after they were pulled down for safety reasons.

Representatives from 72 families in the central Gaza Strip grouped outside the Gaza City office carrying their luggage and calling for the Palestinian refugee agency to rebuild the homes before the winter freeze.

UNRWA demolished homes of 171 families in the coastal strip before Hamas came to power in 2006 and Israel tightened its maritime and land blockade on the 1.7 million-strong population, severely restricting the availability of construction materials.

But Umm Muhammad, from al-Nuseirat refugee camp, said the agency should work faster to rebuild their houses.

"We are coming here to the UNRWA headquarters for the tenth time with no response. They have promised to end our suffering more than once, but until now there was nothing," she said.

Sabah Dukhan told Ma'an at the protest that her children are suffering as rain water leaks into their temporary home.

UNRWA spokesman in Gaza Adnan Abu Hasna said the agency is working hard to bring in the necessary materials to build refugees suitable homes and end their suffering.

"The agency demolished the houses because they do not suitable for living ... but we feel for the protesters and have allocated a budget" to rebuild their homes, he said.

"We are in touch with Israeli authorities to open Gaza's crossings to allow entry of construction materials not only for the UNRWA, but for all the private sector, in order to end this crisis."

Israel has closed three of the four terminals equipped for fuel and goods transfers since 2008, and bans construction materials for local building.

International organizations, including the UN, coordinate with Israel to import limited supplies, but a UN report in November noted that 72 percent of UNRWA projects were waiting approval from Israeli authorities.
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