DUBAI// Work will soon resume on a stalled UAE-funded housing project in the Gaza Strip.
Construction of the 600-unit Khan Younis housing scheme began in 2005 but ground to a halt two years ago due to the Israeli blockade. It is expected to restart in six weeks, a visiting UN official said.
"We have agreed to revive the project for Palestinian refugees," said Peter Ford, representative of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) Commissioner-General.
"About 151 units are already completed. But work was cut short by the Israeli blockade, which prevented the bringing in of construction materials."
The Dh73.4 million Khan Younis scheme is a joint initiative by the UNRWA and UAE Red Crescent Authority (RCA).
"The project was heavily interrupted by the war in Gaza and Israeli blockade," said Mr Ford. "We have just negotiated resumption of work for the remaining 449 houses. This entire project will make a difference to about 3,000 people when it is completed within 12 months, hopefully."
The two agencies yesterday also signed a deal to build schools in Palestine. The UNRWA proposed a plan to build eight schools costing a total of Dh58.8 million.
Ahmed Al Mazrouie, RCA chairman, said four schools would be built in the first phase. When ready, 1,000 pupils can be accommodated in each school.
Mr Ford said: "This will help relieve enormous overcrowding in schools in Gaza. The construction will start within a few weeks and will be built in nine months."
As well as seeking aid, Mr Ford used his three-day visit to the UAE to highlight the plight of Palestinian refugees caught up in the Syrian war.
He described the circumstances of Palestinians in Syria as a "tragedy within a tragedy" and urged the UAE to help with donations of cash and food.
"Half a million refugees are living in Syria. At least 400,000 of them are seriously affected and have had to flee refugee camps in the Damascus area. The Yarmouk camp is empty.
"Thousands of refugees are camping in schools in Damascus. People are not fully aware of the dimension of the tragedy. Palestinians fled their country and made a home in Syria. It's very difficult for them."