At least 15 donor countries, including Italy, have suspended funding to the United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) following Israel’s accusations that some staff members participated in the Hamas attacks of 7 October. The European Commission announced yesterday that a “review” of the dossier will be carried out “in light of the UN investigations”.
UNRWA has already fired several people and promised a thorough investigation into the allegations, while Israel has vowed to stop the agency’s work in Gaza after the war. Meanwhile, the head of the agency – Philippe Lazzarini – said that he will hold “accountable, including through criminal proceedings”, any employee involved in “acts of terrorism”. For his part, the Secretary General of the United Nations – Antonio Guterres – asked States to “ensure the continuity” of the agency and confirmed that 12 UNRWA employees in Gaza are affected by these “extremely serious allegations”, which are subject of internal UN investigations.
According to a report obtained by the NYT, out of 12 of the employees fired by UNRWA, 10 are from Hamas and one from Islamic Jihad. The newspaper then reported in particular that one of the employees was implicated in the kidnapping of an Israeli woman and a second in the transport of the body of a dead soldier in Gaza. The details of the affair were revealed by the US newspaper as part of the dossier on the UN refugee agency which led to the blocking of funding by some countries. According to this report, one of the employees – a counselor at an UNRWA school in Khan Yunis in the south of the Strip – is accused of “working with his son to kidnap a woman in Israel”. The second, «from Nuseirat, in the central part of Gaza, is accused of having helped carry the body of an Israeli soldier who died in the Strip as well as having distributed ammunition and coordinated vehicles on the day of the October 7 attack».
So far, the countries that have suspended their funding to the Agency are, in addition to Italy, the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Austria, Romania, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland.