UN urge countries to resume support for UNRWA

The U.N. refugee agency for Palestinians (UNRWA) is facing a severe funding shortage after several countries suspended their support over allegations of terror involvement by some of its staff.

The U.N. refugee agency for Palestinians (UNRWA) faces a funding crisis that threatens its aid for some two million people in Gaza, U.N. officials and aid groups warned on Sunday. They urged countries to resume their support for the agency, which was suspended by at least nine countries, including the United States and Germany, after Israel accused some of its staff of participating in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel that killed 1,200 people.

“I appeal to the governments that have suspended their contributions to ensure the continuity of UNRWA’s operations, while I understand their concerns – I was myself horrified by these accusations,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Sunday, promising to hold accountable “any U.N. employee involved in acts of terror”.

UNRWA commissioner-general Philippe Lazzarini also asked countries to “reconsider their decisions before UNRWA is forced to suspend its humanitarian response.”

Israel’s military campaign against Hamas in Gaza has killed more than 26,000 people, according to the enclave’s health ministry. The flow of aid such as food and medicine into the territory has been reduced to a fraction of pre-conflict levels, increasing the deaths from preventable diseases and the risk of famine, aid officials say.

Most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people depend on the aid UNRWA provides, including about one million who have sought refuge in its facilities after fleeing Israeli bombardments. Palestinians expressed anger at the funding cuts.

“Israel was launching a war of famine against us in parallel to its war of destruction, and now those countries who suspended the aid to UNRWA declared themselves partners in this war, and collective punishment,” said Yamen Hamad, who lives at an UNRWA-run school in Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza Strip, after escaping northern Gaza.

Michael Fakhri, a U.N. appointed expert on the right to food, opens new tab warned on social media platform X that the funding cuts made famine “inevitable” in Gaza.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz on Saturday called for the agency to be replaced and urged more countries to cut funding. Israel has not yet publicly revealed the details of UNRWA staff members’ alleged involvement in the attack on Israel.

Deputy U.N. spokesperson Farhan Haq did not directly address Katz’s comments but said UNRWA overall had a strong record.

Guterres said 12 staff members had been implicated and that nine had been fired, one was dead and the identities of the other two were being verified.

There was no immediate indication of countries’ responding to the U.N. call to restore aid. However, Norway and Ireland said they would continue funding the agency.

UNRWA was established to help refugees of the 1948 war at Israel’s creation and provides education, health and aid services to Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.

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