SIDON, Lebanon – Thousands of Palestinian refugees took part in a Hamas-sponsored event Sunday in Sidon marking that 100 days had passed since U.S. President Donald Trump decided to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The widely scorned decision to recognize occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy to the contested city has become a “weak point” of U.S. foreign policy, Hamas’ political leader in Lebanon Ahmad Abd al-Hadi told a crowd of people attending the rally.
“We believe that Lebanon’s position is to support the right of return” for Palestinian refugees, Abd al-Hadi said, “so the racist statements of [Gebran] Bassil don’t have any clout.”
The Hamas leader was referring to controversial remarks made Thursday by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil at an international conference held in Rome to assist the underfunded U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees. Bassil proposed that Palestinian refugees who remain outside Lebanese territory for long periods of time or obtain foreign citizenship should lose their refugee status in order to “ease the financial burden” on UNRWA.
Bassil’s comment came as dozens of nations met in the Italian capital last week to discuss funding for the cash-strapped U.N. agency. But de-registering Palestinians who first registered their refugee status in Lebanon would likely do little to free up extra funding for UNRWA, as only around half of the more than 400,000 registered Palestinian refugees in the country receive services from UNRWA, The Daily Star previously reported. The other half, for the most part, live abroad, where they are not de-registered from UNRWA.
UNRWA registration carries symbolic weight for Palestinians hoping for an eventual return of refugees to their homeland.
“We do not want anything but Palestine,” Abd al-Hadi told thousands of attendees, many of them wearing Palestinian black-and-white keffiyehs and carrying signs declaring that “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine.”