The head of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees has said a US cut to funding is a danger to stability across the region and could lead to an outbreak of protests.
Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl says the the aid cut came as a significant shock to the agency and has been very disruptive.
He said: “Here in the region already you don’t have a political horizon, there is no solution, no negotiation on the horizon. And there is so limited personal opportunities on the horizon.
“That mix plus suddenly a disruption of service that’s a very serious one and I think in the Gaza Strip in particular we are already dealing with a time bomb.”
Other humanitarian agencies are also warning that Gaza is on the verge of collapse.
Entire sectors of the economy have been wiped out because of the blockade.
In many areas UNRWA is the only provider of services and the organisation says the funding problem will have a detrimental effect on the people who rely on it the most.
At one of Gaza’s dusty food distribution centres Rweda is collecting food for her family for the next three months.
It is not much – a few bags of flour, rice, beans, sugar and canned fish.
“I’m extremely anxious about the future,” she says. “We are totally dependent on UNRWA’s food assistance.”
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees provides food, healthcare, shelter and employment for more than five million refugees and their descendents across the Middle East.
It was set up to help Palestinians uprooted in the 1948 Arab Israeli war.
At the time it was considered to be a temporary measure but in the absence of a peace deal it is still going.
The issue of Palestinian refugees is controversial because, like Jerusalem, it was left as a final status issue in the Oslo Peace Accords.
The US has been UNRWA’s largest donor for decades and last year it donated $360m, but this year that has fallen to $60m – a reduction of 83%.
The US State department says the cut is about reform and is not about “punishing anyone”, but there is clearly a political dimension.
Donald Trump has linked financial donations to the Palestinians with their willingness to negotiate.
On 2 January he tweeted: “We pay the Palestinians HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect.
“But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”
The PLO has criticised the UNRWA cut claiming it is a deliberate attack aimed at denying the Palestinians their rights.
But there is another argument in Israel.
UNRWA it is claimed is highly politicised, supports anti-Israel propaganda and actually perpetuates the plight of Palestinian refugees.