UNRWA Funding Paused by UK, Australia, Italy, and Canada Amid Allegations of Hamas Involvement

London, UK – Funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) has been temporarily suspended by the UK, Australia, Italy, and Canada. This decision comes after several UNRWA staff members were dismissed due to allegations of their involvement in the Hamas attacks on October 7th. The agency has ordered an investigation into the information supplied by Israel. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed his shock at the news, while the UK Foreign Office condemned the alleged involvement of UNRWA staff in the attacks. The US State Department has also suspended additional funding to the agency, expressing deep concern over the allegations.

The European Union (EU) stated that it would evaluate further actions based on the outcome of a comprehensive investigation. UNRWA’s head, Philippe Lazzarini, assured that a thorough inquiry was being conducted, and any staff found guilty of acts of terror would be held accountable. The Australian Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, pledged to closely engage with UNRWA during the investigation and consult with international partners. Wong emphasized Australia’s commitment to providing humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza.

This development follows Penny Wong’s recent announcement of a significant increase in humanitarian funding for conflict-affected populations, with a focus on women and children in the occupied Palestinian territories. Israel’s Foreign Minister, Israel Katz, aims to cease UNRWA’s operations in Gaza after the war, seeking support from the US, EU, and other major donors to the agency. On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority’s minister for civilian affairs, Hussein Al-Sheikh, expressed concern over the decision to pause support, highlighting the potential political and humanitarian repercussions.

Hamas, in a statement, urged the UN and other international organizations not to succumb to threats from Israel. The unprecedented Hamas attacks on October 7th resulted in the deaths of 1,300 people, mostly civilians, and the kidnapping of 250 others. These events triggered retaliatory attacks by Israel on Hamas in Gaza. Mark Regev, an adviser to the Israeli prime minister, claimed that individuals receiving salaries from UNRWA were involved in the attacks. Regev further mentioned incidences of UNRWA teachers openly celebrating the attacks and an Israeli hostage being held by someone linked to the agency.

UNRWA, dependent on funding from the US, Germany, and the EU, provides education, healthcare, and humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. However, reaching the estimated 1.7 million displaced individuals, accounting for almost three-quarters of the population, has become a challenge due to the ongoing conflict. As Israeli air strikes have targeted several UN facilities used as shelters by Gazans, the humanitarian crisis has worsened.