Head Of UN Agency Denounces ‘Shocking’ Funding Cuts Amid Allegations Staffers Were Involved In Hamas’ Attack On Israel

Published 1 month ago
By Forbes | James Farrell
UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini in Gaza
United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini visits UNRWA building in Rafah, Gaza, makes statements to the press members on November 01, 2023. (Photo by Hani Alshaer/Anadolu via Getty Images)

TOPLINE

The head of the United Nations agency providing humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees on Saturday denounced a move by a growing number of countries to pull funding for the agency following allegations by Israel that some of its staffers participated in Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

KEY FACTS

Finland, the Netherlands, SwitzerlandItalythe U.K. and Germany all announced suspensions of funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) on Saturday.

Those announcements followed the U.S.Australia and Canada, who suspended funding on Friday.

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Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner general of the agency, said it was “shocking” to see the suspension, especially since the agency took “immediate action” to terminate the contracts of the accused staffers and investigate the allegations.

Citing Friday’s ruling from the International Court of Justice that ordered Israel to take measures to enable humanitarian assistance for people in Gaza, Lazzarini said it would be “immensely irresponsible” to sanction the agency and those it serves “because of allegations of criminal acts against some individuals.”

CRUCIAL QUOTE

“I urge countries who have suspended their funding to re-consider their decisions before UNRWA is forced to suspend its humanitarian response,” Lazzarini said in his statement. “The lives of people in Gaza depend on this support and so does regional stability.”

KEY BACKGROUND

Israel alleged on Friday that 12 UNRWA staffers were involved in Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attack against Israel, where militants killed roughly 1,200 people and took more than 200 captive. UNRWA terminated the contracts of those employees and launched an investigation the same day, and the New York Times reported Friday that the employees are also subject to a criminal investigation. In a statement Friday, Lazzarini reiterated UNRWA’s condemnation of Oct. 7 “in the strongest possible terms” and called for the “unconditional release” of all Israeli hostages. But the U.S. led the charge in pulling back funding, with State Department spokesman Matthew Miller saying in a statement that the U.S. was “extremely troubled” by the allegations. On Friday, the International Court of Justice at the UN ordered Israel to take steps to avoid continued casualties that would constitute a genocide in Gaza. UNRWA is the largest humanitarian actor in Gaza with 3,000 core staff on the ground, per Lazzarini’s statement. Israel has in the past accused UNRWA of spreading pro-Hamas propaganda.

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BIG NUMBER

26,083. That’s the number of Palestinians that have been killed in the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, according to the health ministry in Gaza.