Netanyahu proposes closing U.N. Palestinian aid agency

The proposal comes after Israel accused members of UNRWA for being involved in the Oct. 7 attacks.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo courtesy: Hudson Institute

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed the closure of the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) on Wednesday, coinciding with ongoing Israeli air strikes in Gaza. The call for closure comes amid diplomatic efforts to secure a ceasefire and the release of hostages in the region.

Israel alleges that some UNRWA staff were involved in the October 7 Hamas assault in southern Israel, a claim that triggered the current conflict in Gaza. Funding from donors, including the United States, has been paused pending an investigation. However, humanitarian organizations argue that ending UNRWA operations would severely impact relief efforts in the devastated Gaza Strip.

The Palestinians counter Israel’s accusations, asserting that the information has been manipulated to tarnish the reputation of UNRWA. Established in 1948 to aid refugees following Israel’s founding, UNRWA plays a crucial role in providing day-to-day assistance to over half of Gaza’s population.

Netanyahu, addressing U.N. delegates, urged the international community to recognize the need to conclude UNRWA’s mission. He suggested the agency should be replaced by other aid organizations as part of the effort to address the challenges in Gaza.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, on the other hand, emphasized UNRWA’s vital role, describing it as the “backbone of all humanitarian response in Gaza.” He appealed to countries to ensure the continuity of UNRWA’s life-saving work.

Meanwhile, Gaza witnessed an escalation of Israeli air strikes, targeting Gaza City in the north and parts of Khan Younis in the south. Despite ongoing peace initiatives, tensions persist in the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Hamas is currently reviewing a proposal for a three-stage truce, which involves the release of hostages captured on October 7, starting with civilians, followed by soldiers, and then the return of the bodies of deceased hostages. The international community, including the U.S., urged Hamas to accept the proposal for the sake of allowing essential supplies into Gaza.

Concerns about a wider conflict in the Middle East persist, with tensions rising in the region, including challenges involving Yemen’s Houthi rebels and strained relations between Tehran and Washington following a drone strike in Jordan.

The toll on Gaza’s population continues, with thousands reported killed and widespread devastation, further exacerbating the humanitarian crisis.

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