Additional countries have suspended financial support to the largest UN agency operating in Gaza, amidst growing concerns regarding the involvement of certain personnel in the 7 October Hamas attacks on Israel.
Japan and Austria have decided to halt their financial contributions to UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for Palestinian refugees.
The US, UK, Germany, and Italy have also halted their funding.
UNRWA has expressed a sense of urgency, stating that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is rapidly deteriorating.
The agency has terminated the employment of multiple staff members due to allegations of their involvement in an incident on 7 October. During this incident, Hamas gunmen infiltrated Israel, resulting in the tragic loss of approximately 1,300 lives, primarily civilians. Additionally, around 250 individuals were taken hostage and transported back to Gaza.
According to the health ministry in Gaza, a significant number of lives, including those of women and children, have been lost since the commencement of Israel’s military operation. An additional 1.7 million individuals have been forced to leave their residences, seeking refuge at UNRWA facilities.
As per a report in the New York Times, an Israeli intelligence dossier claims that a significant number of UNRWA workers have alleged ties to Hamas or Islamic Jihad, although detailed evidence is not provided.
According to the dossier, it is claimed that on 7 October, a minimum of 12 workers entered Israel. UNRWA has terminated the employment of nine individuals and is currently conducting an investigation.
According to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal, it has been alleged that a significant number of UNRWA’s employees in Gaza have connections to Hamas or Islamic Jihad. The UN has chosen not to provide any information at this time, as they are currently conducting an internal investigation into the agency.
However, on Sunday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed deep concern over the allegations surrounding the 7 October attack. However, he has requested that donor countries ensure the ongoing operations of UNRWA.
In a recent statement, he provided an update on the situation. According to him, out of the 12 individuals involved, nine have already been identified and dismissed by the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini. Unfortunately, one person has been confirmed deceased, while the identities of the remaining two are still being determined.
According to him, Gaza should not face any consequences for the accusations.
Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz announced on Monday that he has decided to cancel his meetings with Mr. Lazzarini and has urged him to step down.
The UNRWA spokesperson expressed concern over the potential halt in funding, stating that the agency’s operations may not be sustainable beyond the end of February.
Japan’s foreign ministry has announced its decision to suspend payment, expressing deep concern over the alleged involvement of UNRWA staff members in the recent terror attack on Israel.
The organization emphasized its strong recommendation for UNRWA to thoroughly and promptly investigate the allegations.
According to UNRWA’s 2022 figures, Japan ranks as the sixth-largest donor to the agency.
On Monday, Austria expressed its support for a thorough investigation into the allegations, emphasising the need for prompt action.
During a BBC interview, Juliette Touma, the director of communications at UNRWA, expressed her concern over the allegations, describing them as “extremely serious.” She also commended Mr Lazzarini for swiftly taking action by dismissing the staff members involved, calling it a “extraordinary measure.”
“We are extremely desperate. The timing of this development coincides with the increasing humanitarian needs in Gaza,” she mentioned, highlighting her recent visit to the territory.
“There is an ongoing situation of people being displaced.” There is a widespread issue of hunger affecting many individuals. The situation is becoming increasingly urgent.
“We are taking every measure to prevent the situation from escalating towards a severe food shortage.” However, the current shortage of funding we are experiencing is causing significant concerns for the largest humanitarian operation in Gaza. This situation has arisen due to a temporary pause in funding from several major donors. The repercussions of this funding gap are expected to be extremely serious.
According to her, UNRWA has not yet examined the evidence, but the UN’s oversight office in New York is currently investigating the allegations.
According to an adviser to the Israeli prime minister, the recent Hamas attacks on 7 October allegedly involved individuals who receive salaries from UNRWA.
According to Mark Regev, there is additional information indicating that teachers working in UNRWA schools have openly celebrated the 7 October attacks.