UNRWA Accused of Links to Hamas in Gaza


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Israel’s accusations against 12 employees of the United Nations agency have led to the United States and several other countries cutting funding to the body. This has reignited the debate over the largest aid provider, the Gaza humanitarian aid agency. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, employs thousands of people and provides vital aid and services to millions of people across the Middle East. In Gaza, it has been the main provider of food, water, and shelter to civilians during the war between Israel and Hamas.

Israel has long criticized the agency, accusing it of tolerating or even collaborating with Hamas and perpetuating the 76-year-old Palestinian refugee crisis. The Israeli government has also accused Hamas and other militant groups of diverting humanitarian aid and using UN facilities for military purposes. UNRWA denies those accusations and says it took swift action against employees accused of participating in the attack. However, the United States and other major donors who together provided more than half of UNRWA’s budget in 2022 suspended their funding to the agency. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says 2 million Palestinians in Gaza, or 87% of the population depend on UNRWA services, which would be reduced in February if the money is not returned.

UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East, was created to provide aid to the approximately 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were expelled from what is now Israel during the 1948 war that surrounded the country’s creation. Palestinians say the refugees and their descendants, who now number almost 6 million across the Middle East, have the right to return to their homes. Israel has refused because if the right of return were fully implemented, the result would be a Palestinian majority within its borders. The fate of refugees and their descendants was one of the thorniest issues of the peace process, which stalled in 2009.

UNRWA operates schools, health clinics, infrastructure projects, and aid programs in refugee camps that now resemble dense urban neighborhoods in Gaza, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. It has 13,000 employees in Gaza alone, the vast majority of them Palestinians. In Gaza, where around 85% of the territory’s 2.3 million people have fled their homes, more than 1 million are taking refuge in UNRWA schools and other facilities.

Israel accuses UNRWA of turning a blind eye as Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, diverts aid intended for civilians and fights in and around the facilities. The UN, several of which have been attacked during the war. Israel has also exposed Hamas tunnels running next to or under UNRWA facilities and accuses the agency of instilling hatred against Israel in its schools. UNRWA denies knowingly helping Hamas or any other militant group and says it has internal safeguards. It says it thoroughly investigates any allegations of wrongdoing and holds staff accountable, and that it provides lists of all its staff to Israel and host countries.

The Israeli document details allegations against the dozen U.N. employees it says participated in the Hamas attack. It said seven of them broke into Israel, including two who participated in kidnappings. The document states that, according to intelligence services, approximately 190 UNRWA employees were members of militant groups, without providing evidence. In the surprise attack on 7 October, Hamas fighters from Gaza overran Israel’s extensive border defenses. Other militants joined the subsequent attack on nearby communities, which left 1,200 dead, mostly civilians. About 250 more people, including children, were captured and dragged to Gaza. Guterres said nine of the accused UNRWA employees were immediately fired. He said everyone will be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution. However, the Israeli document said that two of the accused employees had been killed and that the UN had previously said that one still needed to be identified. Evidence supporting the accusations has not been made public and the AP could not immediately verify the allegations. identities of people named in the document. UNRWA condemned the October 7 attack and called for the release of all hostages. Before the latest accusations, the agency’s commissioner general, Philippe Lazzarini, announced an external review to determine which previous accusations by Israel and its supporters were “true or false” and which were “politically motivated.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the agency should be closed. However, his government has continued to allow UNRWA to operate in the West Bank and Gaza, where it provides basic services that might otherwise be the responsibility of Israel, which still occupies the West Bank and imposes a blockade on Gaza alongside Egypt. No other entity could fill The void would quickly fill if UNRWA were to stop operating in the area.

The United States, which was the first country to suspend funding, is UNRWA’s largest donor, providing it with $340 million in 2022. Several other countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Germany, Japan, and Italy, have also suspended their aid to the agency. In total, donors provided more than 60% of UNRWA’s funding in 2022. It was not immediately clear when or how the suspension of aid would affect the agency’s daily operations. Norway and Ireland said they would continue funding UNRWA. The war has plunged Gaza into a serious humanitarian crisis. One in four Palestinians in the territory faces hunger, according to UN officials, who say aid operations are hampered by fighting and Israeli restrictions. “Our humanitarian operation, on which 2 million people depend for lifelines in Gaza, it is collapsing,” Lazzarini posted on As the war continues, “The war has killed more than 26,000 Palestinians, most of them women and children, and injured more than 64,400 more people, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, which does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in their reports. The death toll includes more than 150 UNRWA employees, the most humanitarian workers the UN has lost in a single conflict. A missile attack set an oil tanker on fire in the Gulf of Aden : this is how the boat looked

Image Source: www.univision.com

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