US Pauses Funding for UNRWA Amidst Staff Involvement Allegations in Hamas Attacks

Washington, D.C. – The United States government is suspending funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) over allegations of staff involvement in the deadly Hamas attacks that occurred on October 7, 2023. The US State Department expressed deep concern and called for a swift investigation into the matter. UNRWA has already terminated the employment of several individuals and initiated an internal inquiry, based on information provided by Israel.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has voiced his horror at the allegations and emphasized the need for a thorough investigation. The attack by Hamas resulted in the deaths of 1,300 people, mostly civilians, and the abduction of 250 others. These events triggered retaliatory actions from Israel, leading to the deaths of over 26,000 Palestinians, as reported by the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza.

Philippe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, confirmed that Israel had provided his organization with information regarding the alleged involvement of some of its employees in the October 7 attacks. UNRWA has taken immediate action by dismissing the accused employees and severing all ties with them. Mark Regev, an adviser to the Israeli prime minister, highlighted the connection between Hamas and UNRWA, claiming that the attacks involved individuals who receive salaries from the agency.

In response to the allegations, UN Chief Antonio Guterres has instructed Lazzarini to conduct a swift investigation. The aim is to identify and dismiss any UNRWA employees found to have participated or facilitated the October 7 attack, potentially leading to criminal prosecution. The United States has welcomed Guterres’s call for a comprehensive investigation into the matter, while the European Union has expressed extreme concern and emphasized the importance of a full inquiry.

UNRWA is a major recipient of funding from the United States, Germany, and the European Union. The organization plays a crucial role in providing education, healthcare, and humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. However, it faces challenges in delivering humanitarian assistance to the estimated 1.7 million Palestinians affected by the ongoing conflict in the region. UN facilities, including shelters, have been hit by Israeli airstrikes, resulting in further casualties.

The temporary suspension of funding by the United States reflects ongoing efforts to address the allegations of staff involvement in the Hamas attacks. The US government has called for a thorough and swift investigation to ensure accountability and prevent any misuse of funds. It is yet to be determined how long the funding will remain on hold and what further steps will be taken by the US, Germany, and the EU based on the outcome of the investigation. The spotlight is now on UNRWA as it works towards maintaining its integrity and continuing its vital humanitarian efforts under scrutiny.