European Nations suspend funding to UN Palestinian Agency amid allegations
Six European countries—Britain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Finland—have suspended funding to the UN Refugee Agency for Palestinians (UNRWA) following allegations of staff involvement in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel. These nations join the United States, Australia, and Canada in halting funds to the agency, a vital support source for residents in Gaza.
Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA Commissioner-General, expressed dismay, stating, "Palestinians in Gaza did not need this additional collective punishment. This stains all of us." Following Israel's allegations, the agency confirmed it had launched an investigation and severed ties with implicated employees.
Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz called for further donor suspensions, suggesting UNRWA be replaced with agencies dedicated to peace and development, especially in rebuilding Gaza. In response to Katz's comments, Deputy UN Spokesperson Farhan Haq emphasized UNRWA's strong record and refused to engage in rhetoric.
Lazzarini warned that the decision by the nine countries jeopardizes UNRWA's humanitarian efforts, particularly in Gaza. He criticized the fund suspension as a reaction to allegations against a few staff members, highlighting the agency's immediate actions, including contract terminations and an independent investigation.
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry criticized what it described as an Israeli campaign against UNRWA. Hamas condemned the termination of employee contracts based on information they claimed came from "the Zionist enemy."
UNRWA, established to assist refugees of the 1948 war following Israel's founding, plays a significant role in Gaza, providing education, health, and aid services. It supports around two-thirds of Gaza's 2.3 million population and has been pivotal during conflicts. Lazzarini announced the agency's investigation, emphasizing the need to protect its humanitarian mission and stating that any staff member involved in acts of terror would face accountability, including criminal prosecution.
As the situation in Gaza remains tense, Hussein al-Sheikh, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), urged countries to reverse their decision, citing significant political and relief risks. Germany's Foreign Ministry, a major UNRWA donor, supported the investigation but stressed the need for clarity in the agency's stance against hatred and violence.