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Arabic press review: UN Palestinian agency says 2018 was toughest year yet

And in the West Bank, Asharq al-Awsat says it's as tense as when Israeli forces besieged former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 2002
Palestinian children in Rafah sit by sacks of food aid provided by UNRWA (AFP)

UNRWA: Worst crisis in our history

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, says it has gone through the worst crisis in the agency's history this past year after the US cut all of its funding.

UNRWA spokesman Sami Mshasha told Arabi21 in an exclusive interview that the plight of Palestinian refugees has been ongoing for 70 years, but this year has been one of the toughest.

“2018 has brought much suffering to the refugees, as thousands of young Palestinians have lost their lives or suffered from serious injuries during the demonstrations in Gaza," Mshasha said.

"Besides, the population of the Gaza Strip, estimated at 2 million, is still overwhelmed by the siege’s ghastly echoes.”

Mshasha said that there are currently 5.3 million displaced Palestinians and that every year, more refugees fall below the poverty line.

"The agency’s services are vital for the refugees. If the financial crisis continues, it will put the refugees’ lifestyle at risk, jeopardising their lives, rights and dignity, especially in an unstable environment, such as the Middle East, which witnesses waves of extremism," he said.

The agency started the year with a $446m deficit. But Mshasha said UNRWA "clearly stated that we will not succumb to the crisis and we will make every effort to protect the agency's mandate and confront this crisis with firm resolution, creativity and discipline," he said. "And this is exactly what happened."

Echoes of war in the West Bank

The West Bank is as tense this week as it was in 2002 when Israeli forces besieged late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, with Israeli officials warning of a third intifada, according to Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat.

Israel has imposed a comprehensive siege on Ramallah and prevented all Palestinians from entering or leaving the city, the newspaper reported.

The siege came after Israeli forces arrested 40 Palestinians across the occupied West Bank on Thursday night during a manhunt for the perpetrator of a shooting that left two Israeli soldiers dead.

On Wednesday, four Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in separate operations over a period of about 24 hours, with the army declaring Ramallah a closed military zone, as it carried out searches around the roads entering and exiting the city.

Asharq al-Awsat said Israeli soldiers had turned the West Bank "into a battlefield, leading to an unprecedented escalation of violence".

Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni blamed the Israeli government and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the deteriorating situation in the West Bank, Asharq al-Awsat reported.

On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority accused Tel Aviv of exerting “unacceptable violence” in the region.

One-third of Jordanians below poverty line

More than 35 percent of Jordanian families are living below the poverty line on less than $500 a month, according to details of a study published by the Jordanian newspaper al-Ghad.

The study was conducted as part of the Family Status of Jordan 2018 report, an annual report issued by the National Council for Family Affairs (NCFA), a governmental committee, in cooperation with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

According to the study, there is growing fear among Jordanians about the country's economic situation as household expenses have increased significantly compared to income. Three in four families depend on salaries as their only source of income. 

The report also revealed a shift in household expenditures as a result of the economic changes with only 45 percent of Jordanians relying on gas for heating compared to 62 percent in 2014 because of the increase in gas costs.

Algerian doctors in France underpaid

Algerian doctors working in French hospitals earn half the salary of French and European degree holders, according to a report released by France's National Assembly and discussed in Algerian newspaper Echorouk el-Yawmi.

According to the report, Algerian doctors practising in France accounted for 25 percent of all non-French doctors working on the country in 2017.

Out of 22,000 doctors who were born abroad and now working in France, the 4,405 Algerian doctors outnumber other those coming from outside the EU, and also those from other countries inside the EU.

* Arabic press review is a digest of reports that are not independently verified as accurate by Middle East Eye.