Dr Hanan Ashwari, representative of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, addressed the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) at a high-level conference in New York titled “Sustaining Human Development and Protecting Rights of Palestine Refugees ”
Ashwari expressed the sorrow and gratitude felt by Palestinian people as they commemorated the 65th anniversary of UNWRA. He evoked Al-Nakba of May 1948 and reminded the audience of the approximately 5.3 million Palestinians still uprooted from their homeland.
He said: “dispossessed and dispersed in the remainder of their homeland and to neighboring countries in the region, mainly to Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, [Palestinians] became refugees, whose plight continues until this day as they continue to be denied their right to return to live at peace with their neighbors and to obtain compensation for their losses”.
Palestinian refugees now span four generations and “continue to endure grave hardships and deprivation, stemming from their original uprooting, with many suffering repeated displacement and affronts to their human security through successive crises and conflicts. Yet, they have persevered and remained steadfast in their calls for fulfillment of their rights, including the right to return to their ancestral land”, continued Ashwari.
He thanked UNWRA for its role in the Palestinian “quest for peace and justice”, saying that UN had taken responsibility which was upheld in the UN’s daily work with the Palestinian people.
Recognising the sacrifices of the UNWRA’s Palestinian national staff, Ashwari paid tribute to the staff members who lost their lives during the 2014 Israeli onslaught on Gaza. He also praised the show of Palestinian resistence during the assault, saying that
“the successive Israeli wars, Israeli blockade and massive devastation and carnage inflicted on the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip further [exacerbated the Palestinian] existential crisis” did not break “the resilience of the Palestine refugees, a resilience rightly recognized as legendary.”
He concluded by calling on the international community to “resolve the largest and most protracted refugee problem in modern history” and by again thanking the UN and the UNRWA for their participation, support and solidarity.