The United States and several other countries have cut funding to the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency amid Israeli terrorism allegations
UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on Western countries not to punish aid workers after the United States and several other major donors suspended funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The official also promised to hold accountable any employee proven to be involved in terrorist activities.
Earlier this month, Israel provided its Western allies with what it described as evidence proving that at least 12 UNRWA employees participated in Hamas' deadly October 7 incursion into Israeli territory. The Axios news website quoted an unnamed senior Israeli official as saying this “This was solid and confirmed intelligence.” Which included confessions of captured Palestinian militants.
In a statement issued on Sunday, Guterres wrote that despite the seriousness of these accusations, “The tens of thousands of men and women who work for UNRWA…should not be punished.” He pointed out that two million civilians in Gaza depend on the aid provided by the agency to survive. Urging donor countries “Which suspended its contributions, at least, to ensure the continuity of UNRWA operations.”
Guterres indicated that the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services has begun an investigation into these allegations. He added that “Any UN staff member involved in terrorist acts will be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution.”
According to the statement, the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini, immediately dismissed nine employees suspected of terrorist activity, while another employee died. The UN Secretary-General said that the identity of the other employees is still being clarified.
The US State Department announced on Friday that it had done so “We have temporarily suspended additional funding to UNRWA while we review these allegations.”
Many other countries followed suit, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Finland and Australia.
According to UNRWA's website, Washington was its largest contributor in 2022.
In a post on X (formerly Twitter) on Friday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant praised the US decision to suspend funding to the UN agency. He called for “Big changes” Within the relief organization “So that international efforts, funds and humanitarian initiatives do not fuel Hamas’ terrorism and the killing of Israelis.”
Israel has long accused the United Nations of aiding and abetting Hamas. In October, Israel demanded Guterres' resignation, accusing him of doing so “Justifying terrorism”
On October 7, Hamas carried out a surprise attack on southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people and taking more than 200 hostage. Israel responded by declaring war on Hamas and launching a large-scale military operation in Gaza. More than 26,000 Palestinians have been killed since then, according to local health authorities.