The UK is set to stop funding the main UN agency to help Palestinian refugees following allegations that several of its staff took part in the October 7 Hamas attacks in Israel last year.
This announcement comes after the US State Department said it will not provide any additional funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency until these allegations are addressed. Australia, Italy and Canada also temporarily halted funding for the agency, and were later joined by the Netherlands and Finland.
A statement from the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said: “The UK is appalled by allegations that UNRWA staff were involved in the 7 October attack against Israel, a heinous act of terrorism that the UK government has repeatedly condemned.
“The UK is pausing any future funding to UNRWA while we review these alarming allegations. We remain committed to getting humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza who need it most.”
Finland, which concluded a four-year agreement to provide 5 million euros annually to UNRWA, suspended its payments, and its Foreign Ministry called for an investigation, so that “not a single euro of Finland’s money goes to Hamas or other terrorists.”
Dutch Trade and Development Minister Geoffrey van Leeuwen said his country would freeze funding while the investigation was conducted, saying his government was “deeply shocked.”
Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said that his country was “committed to providing humanitarian aid to the Palestinian population while protecting Israel's security” when he announced the suspension of funding. Switzerland said no decision would be made on its payments to UNRWA for 2024 until the accusations are clarified.
Following these announcements, Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz urged more donors to withdraw funding, adding: “In rebuilding Gaza, UNRWA must be replaced by agencies dedicated to real peace and development.”
Chris Doyle, from the Arab-British Council for Understanding, said: UNRWA has 13,000 employees working in 350 facilities in Gaza that serve 1.7 million Palestinian refugees. Currently, it houses one million people [internally displaced persons].
She fired 12 employees based on the allegations. How can such a large agency operating in a war zone, in an area under Israeli occupation, be expected to police 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? United kingdom [government] By suspending funding for UNRWA, it has capitulated to those who enabled Israeli crimes and potential genocide.
Irish Tánaiste Micheál Martin said his country had no plans to suspend funding. He said he supports UNRWA's decision to take action against employees suspected of involvement in what he described as “heinous” attacks launched by Hamas. But he made it clear that Ireland does not intend to take similar measures to the likes of the US and UK.
On Friday, UNRWA began an investigation into a number of employees accused of participating in the attacks and said it had severed its relations with these employees.
“The Israeli authorities have provided UNRWA with information about the alleged involvement of a number of UNRWA employees in the horrific attacks on Israel on 7 October,” said the agency’s Commissioner-General, Philippe Lazzarini.
“To protect the Agency’s ability to provide humanitarian assistance, I have made the decision to immediately terminate the contracts of these employees and launch an investigation in order to establish the truth without delay.”
The information leading to the investigation is believed to have been collected by Israeli intelligence services It has also been reported To find evidence indicating that agency vehicles and facilities may have been used during the October 7 attack.
UNRWA has been under pressure since the beginning of the conflict, with Israeli officials alleging collusion with Hamas. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others have accused the agency of stoking anti-Israel sentiment, allegations the agency denies.
His spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, was horrified by these allegations.
UNRWA, founded in 1949 after the First Arab-Israeli War, provides services including education, primary health care and humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
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