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28 Jan, 2024 00:04

Western states stop funding UN Palestinian refugee agency

Israel has accused UNRWA workers of helping Hamas kill civilians
Western states stop funding UN Palestinian refugee agency

Multiple Western countries have suspended funding for the UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) in response to Israeli allegations that a number of its employees participated in the deadly October 7 Hamas attack.

The US, UK, Canada, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Finland, and Australia cut cash for the UNRWA as of Saturday, according to Reuters, after Israel alleged that 12 of the agency's staff had ties to Palestinian militants. UNRWA employs up to 13,000 people in Gaza, 3,000 of whom continue to work in the enclave.

“The Israeli authorities have provided UNRWA with information about the alleged involvement of several UNRWA employees in the horrific attacks on Israel on 7 October,” the agency’s commissioner general, Philippe Lazzarini said in a statement on Friday. “Any UNRWA employee who was involved in acts of terror will be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution.”

UN Secretary General Antionio Guterres is “horrified” by the allegations against the UN personnel, his office said.  

The funding shutoff is expected to affect hundreds of millions of dollars in much-needed aid to the agency, which provides shelter and food for displaced Palestinians – a category that currently encompasses over 85% of residents of the Gaza Strip.

Lazzarini condemned the governments who had opted to pause funding during the inquiry, warning such actions threatened the agency’s humanitarian work in the region. “Palestinians in Gaza did not need this additional collective punishment. This stains all of us,” he wrote of X (formerly Twitter). 

Israel has long accused the UN and its member organizations of sympathizing with Hamas. In October, the Jewish state demanded the resignation of Guterres, accusing him of “justifying terrorism.” Israeli officials also say that the Palestinian militants are using hospitals and other civilian facilities as cover for their rocket attacks against Israel.  

Israel’s allegations against UNRWA came less than a week after the International Court of Justice ordered the country to take emergency measures to prevent “genocide” in Gaza. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted the ruling as “outrageous.” 

On October 7, Hamas carried out a surprise attack on southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people and taking more than 200 hostages. Israel responded by declaring war on Hamas and launching a military operation in Gaza. More than 26,000 Palestinians have since been killed, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run authorities.