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Six European Countries Halt Funding for UN Palestinian Refugee Agency (UNRWA) Amid Allegations of Staff Involvement in Hamas Attacks

On Saturday, six European countries—Britain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Finland—joined the United States, Australia, and Canada in suspending funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). The decision follows allegations that some of UNRWA’s staff were involved in the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.

The move has raised concerns about the impact on humanitarian work, especially in Gaza, where UNRWA plays a crucial role in providing education, health, and aid services to Palestinians. Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA Commissioner-General, expressed disappointment, stating that the suspension of funds, in response to allegations against a small group of staff, jeopardizes the agency’s ability to deliver humanitarian assistance.

In response to the allegations, UNRWA initiated an investigation and severed ties with the implicated individuals. Israel has encouraged more donor suspensions, with Foreign Minister Israel Katz suggesting that UNRWA should be replaced after the fighting in Gaza subsides, citing alleged ties to Islamist militants.

While UNRWA Commissioner-General Lazzarini emphasized the immediate action taken by the agency and its commitment to a transparent independent investigation, Israeli Foreign Minister Katz called for UNRWA’s replacement with agencies dedicated to genuine peace and development.

UNRWA, established to assist refugees from the 1948 war at Israel’s founding, provides vital services to Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. The agency supports about two-thirds of Gaza’s 2.3 million population and has been instrumental in providing aid during conflicts, including the recent hostilities following the October 7 attacks.

German Foreign Ministry welcomed UNRWA’s investigation, expressing deep concern about the allegations and expecting a clear stance against hatred and violence within UNRWA’s workforce.

The Palestinian foreign ministry criticized what it described as an Israeli campaign against UNRWA, while Hamas condemned the termination of employee contracts based on information from the “Zionist enemy.” Source: Reuters

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