Photos: Glimpses of Palestinian refugee camps, then and now

History has marched on since they arrived in the middle of the last century, seeking refuge for what they thought would be a few weeks, but staying for a lifetime. Around them the Middle East has lurched from conflict to civil war to peace and back again. But for Palestinian refugees in the camps, there has been little movement over decades - only their memories and hopes can travel freely back to lost lands. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees in the Near was created by the U.N. General Assembly 70 years ago to deal with the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees who had been driven from their homes or fled the conflict. But in November 170 countries voted in committee for UNRWA's mandate renewal ahead of the main assembly. Only two - Israel and the United States - voted against. Although nothing is certain in Middle East politics, such an overwhelming majority is unlikely to be overturned in the final vote, the agency's supporters say, with no easy alternative available.

UPDATED ON DEC 13, 2019 04:51 PM IST 14 Photos
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A Palestinian woman feeds a child at UNRWA’s rehydration/nutrition centre in Ein El Sultan camp in Jericho in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in 1960s (L) and a Palestinian woman feeds a child at the same camp on September 17, 2019. Middle East has lurched from conflict to civil war to peace and back again. But for Palestinian refugees in these camps, there has been little movement over decades. (UNRWA / Mohamad Torokman / REUTERS)

A Palestinian woman feeds a child at UNRWA’s rehydration/nutrition centre in Ein El Sultan camp in Jericho in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in 1960s (L) and a Palestinian woman feeds a child at the same camp on September 17, 2019. Middle East has lurched from conflict to civil war to peace and back again. But for Palestinian refugees in these camps, there has been little movement over decades. (UNRWA / Mohamad Torokman / REUTERS)

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Nurses attend a child at a UNRWA health centre for Palestinian refugees in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1952 (L) and a Palestinian refugee girl receives a vaccination at a UNRWA clinic at Burj al-Barajneh refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon on June 23, 2019. Visited by photographers decades apart, time seems to have passed at a different speed in many of the Palestinian refugee camps scattered across Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. (UNRWA / Aziz Taher / REUTERS)

Nurses attend a child at a UNRWA health centre for Palestinian refugees in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1952 (L) and a Palestinian refugee girl receives a vaccination at a UNRWA clinic at Burj al-Barajneh refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon on June 23, 2019. Visited by photographers decades apart, time seems to have passed at a different speed in many of the Palestinian refugee camps scattered across Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. (UNRWA / Aziz Taher / REUTERS)

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Newly displaced Palestinian refugees walk after fetching potable water in Al-Shati (Beach) refugee camp in Gaza City, in 1953 (L) and Palestinian women walk after fetching potable at the same beach on September 10, 2019. Young women balancing clay water pots on their heads in 1950s Gaza became the grandmothers of a generation who today have taps in their homes but still haul bottled water home because it is filtered, and so safer to drink. (UNRWA / Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / REUTERS)

Newly displaced Palestinian refugees walk after fetching potable water in Al-Shati (Beach) refugee camp in Gaza City, in 1953 (L) and Palestinian women walk after fetching potable at the same beach on September 10, 2019. Young women balancing clay water pots on their heads in 1950s Gaza became the grandmothers of a generation who today have taps in their homes but still haul bottled water home because it is filtered, and so safer to drink. (UNRWA / Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / REUTERS)

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Students attend a lesson inside a classroom in Jabal el-Hussein camp in Amman, Jordan, in 1971 (L) and schoolchildren attend a lesson in a classroom at one of the UNRWA schools at Jabal el-Hussein Palestinian refugee camp in Amman, on September 29, 2019. A key presence in these lives is UNRWA, the United Nations agency which provides services and protection to 5.5 million Palestinian refugees. (Munir Nasr / Muhammad Hamed / REUTERS)

Students attend a lesson inside a classroom in Jabal el-Hussein camp in Amman, Jordan, in 1971 (L) and schoolchildren attend a lesson in a classroom at one of the UNRWA schools at Jabal el-Hussein Palestinian refugee camp in Amman, on September 29, 2019. A key presence in these lives is UNRWA, the United Nations agency which provides services and protection to 5.5 million Palestinian refugees. (Munir Nasr / Muhammad Hamed / REUTERS)

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Palestinian refugee students play in their schoolyard in Amman New camp, Jordan, in 1969 (L) and Palestinian refugee schoolchildren play at the same camp, on September 26, 2019. The UNRWA for Palestine Refugees in the Near East was created by the UN General Assembly 70 years ago to deal with thousands of refugees who had been driven from their homes or fled the conflict surrounding the birth of the modern state of Israel in 1948. (George Nehmeh / Muhammad Hamed / REUTERS )

Palestinian refugee students play in their schoolyard in Amman New camp, Jordan, in 1969 (L) and Palestinian refugee schoolchildren play at the same camp, on September 26, 2019. The UNRWA for Palestine Refugees in the Near East was created by the UN General Assembly 70 years ago to deal with thousands of refugees who had been driven from their homes or fled the conflict surrounding the birth of the modern state of Israel in 1948. (George Nehmeh / Muhammad Hamed / REUTERS )

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A Palestinian woman holding a child at UNRWA’s health centre in Rafah camp in the southern Gaza Strip, in 1969 (L) and a Palestinian woman holding a child at the same camp, on September 3, 2019. Many Israelis regard UNRWA - by far the largest humanitarian organisation handling Palestinian refugees - with suspicion. (Kay Brennan / Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / REUTERS)

A Palestinian woman holding a child at UNRWA’s health centre in Rafah camp in the southern Gaza Strip, in 1969 (L) and a Palestinian woman holding a child at the same camp, on September 3, 2019. Many Israelis regard UNRWA - by far the largest humanitarian organisation handling Palestinian refugees - with suspicion. (Kay Brennan / Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / REUTERS)

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A doctor examines a child in Baqaa camp, near Amman, Jordan, in 1969 (L) and a doctor examines a child at a health center at Baqaa Palestinian refugee camp, near Amman, Jordan, on September 29, 2019. (UNRWA / Muhammad Hamed / REUTERS)

A doctor examines a child in Baqaa camp, near Amman, Jordan, in 1969 (L) and a doctor examines a child at a health center at Baqaa Palestinian refugee camp, near Amman, Jordan, on September 29, 2019. (UNRWA / Muhammad Hamed / REUTERS)

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Palestinian students attend a class inside al-Falah Elementary School in Gaza Strip in 1974 (L) and Palestinian students attend a class inside al-Falah Elementary School on September 2, 2019. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that UNRWA’s longevity had served to perpetuate, not solve, the refugee problem. “It is time (for) UNRWA (to) be dismantled,” he said in 2017, urging the U.N. to “re-examine” its existence. (George Nehmeh / Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / REUTERS )

Palestinian students attend a class inside al-Falah Elementary School in Gaza Strip in 1974 (L) and Palestinian students attend a class inside al-Falah Elementary School on September 2, 2019. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that UNRWA’s longevity had served to perpetuate, not solve, the refugee problem. “It is time (for) UNRWA (to) be dismantled,” he said in 2017, urging the U.N. to “re-examine” its existence. (George Nehmeh / Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / REUTERS )

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Palestinian school girls stand in a queue to collect UNRWA prepared food parcels during the first intifada in the Gaza Strip in 1988 (L) and Palestinian school girls waiting to collect snacks in a UNRWA-run school in the Gaza Strip, on September 2, 2019. (Zaven Mazakian / Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / REUTERS)

Palestinian school girls stand in a queue to collect UNRWA prepared food parcels during the first intifada in the Gaza Strip in 1988 (L) and Palestinian school girls waiting to collect snacks in a UNRWA-run school in the Gaza Strip, on September 2, 2019. (Zaven Mazakian / Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / REUTERS)

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Palestinians walk in Nuweimeh camp near Jericho in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, in this undated handout photo (L) and Palestinians walk in the deserted Nuweimeh camp near Jericho in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on September 17, 2019. A re-examination is due in the coming days, with the UN General Assembly to vote on renewing UNRWA’s mandate. (UNRWA / Mohamad Torokman / REUTERS )

Palestinians walk in Nuweimeh camp near Jericho in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, in this undated handout photo (L) and Palestinians walk in the deserted Nuweimeh camp near Jericho in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on September 17, 2019. A re-examination is due in the coming days, with the UN General Assembly to vote on renewing UNRWA’s mandate. (UNRWA / Mohamad Torokman / REUTERS )

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An undated handout photo of Palestinian boys at Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank (L) and Palestinian boys posing for a photo in front of a section of the Israeli barrier in Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, on October 19, 2019. (UNRWA / Mussa Qawasma / REUTERS )

An undated handout photo of Palestinian boys at Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank (L) and Palestinian boys posing for a photo in front of a section of the Israeli barrier in Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, on October 19, 2019. (UNRWA / Mussa Qawasma / REUTERS )

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Palestinian refugee girls push their belongings in prams and carts as they flee Jaffa in the wake of the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948 (L) and a boy rides a bicycle on a street in Jaffa, near Tel Aviv, Israel, on September 19, 2019. (UNRWA / Corinna Kern / REUTERS )

Palestinian refugee girls push their belongings in prams and carts as they flee Jaffa in the wake of the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948 (L) and a boy rides a bicycle on a street in Jaffa, near Tel Aviv, Israel, on September 19, 2019. (UNRWA / Corinna Kern / REUTERS )

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Young women play basketball at the Women’s Activity Centre at Qalandia in this undated handout photo (L) and Palestinian school girls play basketball at UNRWA’s Qalandia school, on September 17, 2019. Amid financial crisis and political uncertainty, Palestinian leaders warned of unrest if services were to vanish. But in November 170 countries voted in committee for UNRWA’s mandate renewal ahead of the main assembly. Only two - Israel and the United States - voted against. (UNRWA / Mohamad Torokman / REUTERS)

Young women play basketball at the Women’s Activity Centre at Qalandia in this undated handout photo (L) and Palestinian school girls play basketball at UNRWA’s Qalandia school, on September 17, 2019. Amid financial crisis and political uncertainty, Palestinian leaders warned of unrest if services were to vanish. But in November 170 countries voted in committee for UNRWA’s mandate renewal ahead of the main assembly. Only two - Israel and the United States - voted against. (UNRWA / Mohamad Torokman / REUTERS)

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Palestinian refugees are seen sitting inside a tent in the newly formed Ein El Hilweh refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1948 (L) and an elderly Palestinian man is seen with his wife at the Ain el-Hilweh refugee camp near Sidon, southern Lebanon, on September 24, 2019. Although nothing is certain in Middle East politics, such an overwhelming majority is unlikely to be overturned in the final vote, the agency’s supporters say, with no easy alternative available. (Myrtle Winter Chaumeny / Ali Hashisho / REUTERS )

Palestinian refugees are seen sitting inside a tent in the newly formed Ein El Hilweh refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1948 (L) and an elderly Palestinian man is seen with his wife at the Ain el-Hilweh refugee camp near Sidon, southern Lebanon, on September 24, 2019. Although nothing is certain in Middle East politics, such an overwhelming majority is unlikely to be overturned in the final vote, the agency’s supporters say, with no easy alternative available. (Myrtle Winter Chaumeny / Ali Hashisho / REUTERS )

UPDATED ON DEC 13, 2019 04:51 PM IST

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