Donor countries halt funding to UN agency in Gaza

Several key donor countries to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees have said they would halt funding following Israeli charges that some UNRWA staff took part in Hamas’s October 7 attack.

The agency has fired several staff over Israel’s accusations and promised a thorough investigation into the claims, which were not specified, while Israel has vowed to stop the agency’s work in Gaza after the war.

The head of UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini, vowed to hold “accountable, including through criminal prosecution”, any agency employee found to have been involved in “acts of terror”.

UN chief Antonio Guterres pledged to conduct an “urgent and comprehensive independent review of UNRWA”, his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

The United States said Friday it had suspended funding for the UN agency, followed by several other countries since then. Here is what they have said:

– Australia –

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said that while UNRWA provides “vital, life saving work”, the government would “temporarily pause disbursement of recent funding”.

“We welcome UNRWA’s immediate response, including terminating contracts and launching an investigation,” she said on social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

– Britain –

The British government said it was “appalled by the allegations” made by Israel and would be “temporarily pausing any future funding” while the Foreign Office reviewed the claims.

– Canada –

Canada’s International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen announced that Ottawa had “temporarily paused any additional funding to UNRWA while it undertakes a thorough investigation into these allegations”.

– Finland –

Finland had a four-year agreement to provide five million euros ($5.4 million) annually to UNRWA.

Its foreign ministry suspended its payments and called for “an independent and thorough investigation”.

“We must make sure that not a single euro of Finland’s money goes to Hamas or other terrorists,” it said.

– France –

Paris said it was not planning any new funding to UNRWA after the accusations.

“France has not planned a new payment for the first quarter of 2024 and will decide when the time comes of the action to take together with the United Nations and the main donors,” the foreign ministry said, calling the allegations “exceptionally serious”.

– Germany –

Germany announced that it too was suspending funding.

So long as the accusation had not been cleared up, “Germany, in agreement with other donor countries,” would for now withhold approval for further resources, said a foreign ministry statement.

– Italy –

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said it was joining the ranks of those suspending funding.

It added that “we are committed to providing humanitarian aid to the Palestinian population while protecting Israel’s security”.

– Netherlands –

Dutch Minister for Trade and Development Geoffrey van Leeuwen announced a freeze in funding for UNRWA while the investigation was ongoing, saying the government was “extremely shocked”.

“The accusation is that the attack was committed on October 7 with UN money, with our money,” he told public broadcaster NOS.

– Switzerland –

Switzerland has made annual contributions of around 20 million Swiss francs ($23 million) to UNRWA.

A foreign ministry statement said no decision would be taken on the 2024 payment until the accusations were clarified.

“Switzerland has zero tolerance for all forms of support for terrorism, and for calls to hatred or incitement to violence,” it added.

– United States –

The US State Department suspended payments and welcomed the UN’s announcement of an investigation into the allegations.

It called for “complete accountability for anyone who participated in the heinous attacks”.

It also underlined that “UNRWA plays a critical role in providing lifesaving assistance to Palestinians, including essential food, medicine, shelter, and other vital humanitarian support”.

AFP

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