Israel vows to BAN UN aid agency from operating in Gaza after conflict ends – as bosses beg West to restore funding amid claims employees were involved in the October 7 Hamas attack
Israel today vowed to ban the UN aid agency from working in Gaza after the war ends.
It came as bosses begged the West to restore funding following the sacking of staff accused of involvement in the October 7 attack.
The UN agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA, said on Friday it had fired several employees over Israel’s accusations, promising a thorough investigation into the claims, which were not specified.
The UK’s Foreign Office has today announced that it will freeze future funding from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) pending a review of the ‘relevant allegations’.
A statement from the Foreign Office said it was ‘appalled’ by the allegations but remained ‘committed’ to getting humanitarian aid into Gaza.
An aerial photo of destroyed buildings as a result of the Israeli attack on Nuseirat refugee camp as residents survey the destroyed buildings around the rubble in Deir al-Balah, Gaza on January 26, 2024
An aerial photo of the tents where Palestinians try to survive in difficult conditions after fleeing their homes for safety in Deir al-Balah, Gaza on January 27, 2024
Internally displaced Palestinians move past Israeli tanks after the Israeli army told residents of Khan Yunis camp to leave their homes and go to Rafah camps near the Egyptian border, southern Gaza Strip, on January 27, 2024.
The US State Department said it was “extremely disturbed” by the claims and called for “full accountability” for those involved in the October 7 attacks.
Donors including Germany, Britain, Italy, Australia and Finland also followed the lead of the United States, which said on Friday it was “temporarily suspending additional funding” to the agency while it reviewed the demands, as well as the UN’s plan to address concerns to address. .
“In Gaza’s reconstruction, UNRWA must be replaced with agencies dedicated to true peace and development,” Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in a statement, urging more donors to suspend funding.
Hamas today criticized Israeli ‘threats’ against UNRWA and urged the United Nations and other international organizations not to ‘gave in to the threats and blackmail’.
Relations between Israel and UNRWA, which have been strained for years, have further deteriorated in recent days, with the UN agency condemning tank deployments it said hit a shelter for displaced people in Gaza’s capital south of Khan Yunis.
People inspect damage to their homes caused by Israeli airstrikes, on January 27, 2024 in Rafah, Gaza
People try to walk on damaged roads filled with rainwater during rainfall as combination of cold weather and heavy rainfall worsen already challenging living conditions for Palestinians amid Israeli attacks on Gaza on January 27, 2024
Displaced Palestinians walk past Israeli army tanks after the Israeli army asked residents of Khan Yunis camp to leave their homes and go to Rafah camps near the Egyptian border, south of the Gaza Strip, on January 26, 2024.
Pictured: Palestinians fleeing Khan Younis move towards Rafah amid the ongoing conflict
The agency said tens of thousands of displaced people were registered at the shelter and Wednesday’s tank shelling killed 13 people.
Asked about the incident, the Israeli military said “a thorough review of the operations of the forces in the area is underway,” adding that it was investigating the possibility that the attack was a “result of Hamas fire.” .
UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini labeled Wednesday’s bombing a “blatant disregard for basic rules of war,” with the compound clearly marked as a UN facility and its coordinates shared with Israeli authorities.
The Israeli army is the only force known to have tanks operating in the Gaza Strip.
The Israel-Hamas war has killed more than 26,000 Palestinians, destroyed vast swaths of Gaza and displaced nearly 85 percent of the territory’s 2.3 million people, according to local health officials.
The Hamas attack in southern Israel killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took around 250 hostages.
Before fighting broke out, UNRWA was struggling to meet funding requirements.
The agency’s chronic budget deficits worsened dramatically in 2018 when former US President Donald Trump slashed support for the agency.
But the administration of US President Joe Biden fully restored support, providing $340 million in 2022, making it the agency’s largest bilateral donor.
Several key donor countries said today they would freeze their funding, prompting Lazzarini to say it was “shocking to see a suspension of funds to the agency in response to allegations against a small group of staff”.
Top EU diplomat Josep Borrell praised the agency on Friday for playing an important role over many years in supporting vulnerable Palestinian refugees.
But he said the bloc expected “full transparency about the allegations” as well as “immediate measures against the staff involved”.
Internally displaced Palestinians move past Israeli tanks after the Israeli army told residents of Khan Yunis camp to leave their homes and go to Rafah camps near the Egyptian border, southern Gaza Strip, January 27, 2024.
Palestinian people holding empty bowls try to reach for food distributed by volunteers at donation points as Israeli attacks continue in Rafah, Gaza on January 26, 2024.
A displaced Palestinian child holds up an empty pot as she waits with others to receive food aid provided by a Palestinian youth group in the Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, on January 25, 2024.
The Palestinian Authority, which is based in the occupied West Bank, urged donors to reverse their suspension, calling on Saturday for “maximum support for this international organization and not to stop support and assistance to it”.
Johann Soufi, a lawyer and former director of UNRWA’s legal office in Gaza, said the agency “has always had a zero-tolerance policy for violence and incitement to hatred.”
“To sanction UNRWA, which barely sustains the entire population of Gaza, for the alleged responsibility of a few employees, is tantamount to the collective punishment of the Gaza population, who live in catastrophic humanitarian conditions,” he said. said.
The accusations against UNRWA staff came hours after the UN High Court ordered Israel to do everything in its power to prevent any acts of genocide in Gaza.
The International Court of Justice delivered its first judgment on Friday in a landmark case brought by South Africa.
Soufi said the timing of the allegations against UNRWA “raises questions”.