UN agency condemns aid halt over alleged help for Hamas attacks


New York: The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA has urged the countries that halted funding to reconsider their “shocking” decision.

“UNRWA is the primary humanitarian agency in Gaza, with over two million people depending on it for their sheer survival,” Philippe Lazzarini said.

Eight countries, including the UK, earlier paused funding the agency.

They acted over allegations that some UNRWA staff were involved in the 7 October deadly Hamas attacks on Israel.

The agency says it has opened an investigation and has sacked those employees.

The countries that have now suspended funding UNRWA are Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the UK and the US.

Created in 1949, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, is the biggest UN agency operating in Gaza. It provides healthcare, education and other humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. It employs around 13,000 people inside Gaza.

Since Israel began its offensive in response to the Hamas attacks UNRWA has used its facilities across Gaza to shelter hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians.

The information on UNRWA employees’ alleged involvement in the Hamas attacks was supplied by Israel, which has long accused different branches of the UN – including UNRWA – of bias and even of antisemitism.

In a statement on Saturday, Mr Lazzarini said: “It is shocking to see a suspension of funds to the agency in reaction to allegations against a small group of staff, especially given the immediate action that UNRWA took by terminating their contracts and asking for a transparent independent investigation.

“It would be immensely irresponsible to sanction an agency and an entire community it serves because of allegations of criminal acts against some individuals, especially at a time of war, displacement and political crises in the region.

“UNRWA shares the list of all its staff with host countries every year, including Israel. The agency never received any concerns on specific staff members.”

Mr Lazzarini added that an investigation by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services into “the heinous allegations will establish the facts”.

Sunil Kumar Dhangadamajhi

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